Short Takes

Capsule reviews of Blades of Glory, |The Bridge, and other movies opening this week.

The Bridge
In his ghoulish documentary, director Eric Steel examines the Golden Gate's dubious honor as the world's most popular suicide destination. Steel trained cameras on the bridge throughout 2004, watching for jumpers; 24 people obliged. In most cases, the director has the last pathetic snippet of the jumper's life on tape: a tiny human blur plummeting out of the frame, followed by an off-camera splash and -- nothing. In the wake of these suicides, the movie dutifully visits survivor after survivor -- dazed roommates, stunned family, unlucky witnesses. But the banal remembered particulars are less upsetting -- and less revealing, in a suggestive way -- than the affectless glimpses of the soon-to-be-departed through Steel's long-range lens. They could be any of us -- right up to the moment they bypass some circuit breaker of survival instinct that keeps the rest of us on the other side of the rail. Equally disturbing in this context are the shots of unidentified tourists -- walkers and gawkers who pause to look over the side, then pause just a second longer -- plainly hearing, if only for an instant, the siren song of the undertow. Rated R. -- Jim Ridley

Flannel Pajamas
Indie-film exec Jeff Lipsky's sophomore feature as writer-director shares with his distribution work a desire to restore some of the untidier virtues of '70s American film. For one thing, that means the well-off thirtysomething couple in this epic study of a relationship's slow deterioration -- from horniness and sex to marriage and consensual masturbation -- spends less time charming its bourgeois audience than making it squirm in unflattering recognition. Money, believably, drives a wedge between PR spinmaster Stuart (Justin Kirk) and the underachieving Nicole (Julianne Nicholson). Yet Lipsky, to his credit, portrays everything in the relationship -- family planning not least -- as a kind of minutely calculated business transaction. (Peeing in the tub can be forgiven, but not debt.) At a full two hours, Lipsky's talky movie is more compelling in its second half, when the spouses finally get around to being themselves. "You never used to talk to me like this when we were dating," says Nicole. "Were you just censoring yourself back then?" Not Rated. -- Rob Nelson

Blades of Glory
Will Ferrell, having moved on from the anchor desk and NASCAR, at long last ridicules a hallowed profession. I refer, of course, to men's figure skating. Until now, who has dared to mock the sequined costumes, the fondness for power ballads, the Spandex pants? Luckily, Our Man Ferrell is up to the challenge, along with a troupe of the usual suspects (Luke Wilson, Amy Poehler). In Blades of Glory, he gives us the story of two male skaters (Ferrell and Jon Heder) who decide to become a pair due to a chain of events too ludicrous to mention here. Even as it points its finger and laughs at every easy target in sight, the film is also bizarrely earnest: Don't worry, it tells you, figure skating with another man doesn't make you gay, not even when your partner lifts you so high your crotch is in his face. It almost goes without saying that this undercurrent of homoeroticism is not handled deftly. Blades does capture the obvious eccentricities of the skating world and is funny up to a point, but by now Ferrell & Co. have the formula for a mild comedy down pat. What they need is a little soul. Rated PG-13. -- Julia Wallace