City Of Angels
Thursday, April 16, 1998
The estrogen level in the theater where I saw City of Angels was so high that by the movie''s end I was in serious danger of lactating.
City of Angels, a remake of Wim Wenders'' film, Wings of Desire, has all the essential components of a classic chick movie: a great-looking couple overcoming obstacles to be together; an ethereal soundtrack that sounds a lot like Enya; a noticeable absence of car chases, explosions, profanity and gratuitous nudity (elements essential to guy cinema); and lots and lots of sensitivity, in this case in the form of Nicholas Cage, who plays--get this--an angel who cannot feel love.
The chick movie genre is not a bad thing--consider Ghost or When Harry Met Sally--but as a rule it has limited appeal to men. In the case of City of Angels, while the movie looks great and the two stars are appealing, the plot is so sluggish and the New Age/navel gazing tone is so exhausting that even fans of chick movies must have found this one hard to take.
City of Angels is set in Los Angeles, where Dr. Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan) has lost a patient on the operating table. Unbeknownst to Maggie, an angel named Seth (Cage) is in the operating room to collect the soul of the dead man. Seth becomes obsessed with Maggie, but cannot truly love her because angels, it seems, cannot feel human emotions.
Seth watches Maggie cry over the loss of her patient; he sees her in the arms of her doctor boyfriend, but cannot fully comprehend the feelings the two share. He appears to her in human form to learn more about this strange, beautiful creature, but soon realizes that short of becoming human, he cannot fully know Maggie.
This is Seth''s dilemma: Will he give up his perfect world of ethereal music and serenity for a shot at real love, or will he remain in an angelic state, peaceful, but without ever knowing the pain and pleasure of being human?
The smart money says he goes for the girl.
To be fair, there is nothing particularly wrong with City of Angels, no glaring inconsistencies or gaps, no cut corners. But there is nothing particularly outstanding about it either. Ryan is always a pleasure to watch, but in her perpetual state of cuteness she seems miscast as an angst-ridden surgeon. Cage, a gifted comedic actor, tries hard to seem innocent and naive, but only ends up looking like a deer in the headlights. He mumbles his words; he has a strange, distracted look. No doubt he was going for sensitive innocence, but he only achieves a look of lobotomized distraction.
Things do pick up a bit after Seth takes the plunge and finds himself human and living in LA. Suddenly, a jolt of reality: He bleeds, he''s finds himself alone, he realizes that being human is not just about beautiful blonde surgeons and love. But, by this point, such a brief, unexpected plot twist is too little, too late.
Except for a few pseudo-profound, what''s-it-all-about-Alfie scenes involving angels on a beach, the entire movie rests on the interaction between Seth and Maggie, and the pace is slow to the point of being comatose.
By the second hour I was praying for just one car chase through East LA, or at least some gunfire. Alas, it was not to be. I was trapped like an animal in a dull, two-hour Oprah segment on love and fulfillment and angels and being and innocence and beauty and...GAG!