Oh Spielberg, why do you fail me so!
Screenplay By: Jerry Belson
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Often I am met with ridicule when engaged in conversations about the greatest directors of all time and my lists never have Steven Spielberg on them, or if they do he is relatively low. I happen to like Spielberg a lot as a director, but the problem with Spielberg is that for every Saving Private Ryan he has an Always as well as horrendous fare like Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (ha, you thought I was going to list that other atrocity, but I will not) or The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Too often Spielberg is a filmmaker who fails to deliver, Always is yet another film where he fails to deliver.
The first problem for Always comes in its general story, that of of a man who dies and comes back as an angel to oversee the life of a young pilot. This scenario never allows us to care about the Richard Dreyfuss character before his death and he comes across like a complete shrew after his death. The rest of the characters are caricatures to the extreme and the kicker comes when we are told that we don’t accomplish anything in life, our greatest achievements only come about because some mystical guardian angel guides our actions. Not only do we have a cast of characters that we can’t relate to, nor care about, but now we have no reason to care about any of the action we see either.
The next issue one undertakes in Always is how freaking romantic and sentimental the film is. None of the characters talk, they proclaim in terrible dialogue the way we imagine in our heads great love proclamations would sound. They talk like super fighter pilots, like a guy who knows he is about to die, they are, in a word fake. This is compounded by the aforementioned sentimentality, where you can’t watch more than five minutes without some scene that is supposed to bring tears to your eyes. I almost cried a few times, not because of any sentimentality, but because I couldn’t believe Steven Spielberg directed something this trite.
The one area where I enjoyed Always were in the aerial firefighting sequences. They didn’t seem all that realistic, but I didn’t care. They were fun, they were cool to look at, they were the only aspect of Always that was worth watching. You don’t become invented in the aerial scenes emotionally, but they sure look cool.
Always is a film that never captures the viewer, it never feels like it is going anywhere, or like you want to be along for the uneventful ride. This is yet another Steven Spielberg film that you don’t need to see, if for nothing else than the laughable idea that any dude anywhere would choose Holly Hunter over Marg Helgenberger, c’mon!