New on DVD

Atlas Shrugged: Part I a Timely Tale; Water for Elephants a Dry Hump

YEP – “‘Atlas Shrugged” is a liberation of the human spirit,” says John Aglialoro, the producer who purchased the influential and revered Ayn Rand novel in 1992, thinking it would be an easy sell to Hollywood. He was wrong.

Nearly 20 years later, Rand’s ode to capitalism and personal liberty is finally available in celluloid, and after a tepid release last April, it is now on DVD. A giant novel turned into a dwarf film.

Russian-born Rand’s philosophy of “Objectivism,” that man is a heroic being whose achievements are his greatest accomplishments, believed staunchly in the American Constitution and her novels (also Anthem, The Fountainhead) continue to find legions of new readers every year.

From her novel, Atlas Shrugged: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I shall never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

The film was made for a modest $6.5m and has a glaring lack of star power, both in front of the camera, and behind. Jon Polito and Patrick Fischler lend their usual gravitas, but there are no marquee actors in the picture, and it suffers accordingly, resulting in mostly forgettable performances. Director Paul Johansson, known mostly as a soap opera actor (Santa Barbara) does a workmanlike job with the material. Material that is, in essence, the star of the show.

It is the ideas of Atlas Shrugged that are being showcased.

“The producers of the world just go on strike,” says Aglialoro. “It’s very similar to what is happening today, the frustrations with political over reach – people who create are selling their businesses and walking away because of the lack of freedom to pursue their own life.”

Interestingly, and not by design, I followed up Atlas Shrugged: Part I with Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978). The complete flip side to the coin. A film about the harsh struggle of the day laborer and the disparity between the haves and the have-nots at the turn of the 20th century.

“He figured some people need more than they got, other people got more than they need – just a matter of gettin’ us all together,” says the young narrator in a thick illiterate Chicago street dialect.

Talk about dueling ideologies. I suppose the devil is in the details, right?

NOPE – I gave up on the popular “Oprah’s Book Club” best seller Water for Elephants at about page 90 (my usual make or break point in most books), so it came as no surprise that the film (same title) didn’t work for me either. If you loved the Sarah Gruen novel, then you might enjoy the film adaptation. For my money, Reese Witherspoon was miscast, the script was soft, and while Robert Pattinson may make an effective vampire, as a leading man he is more of a stone golem.

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