Archives for posts with tag: claire foy

I really liked the novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and Hilary Mantel (their author) was one of the writers for the show, so it is perhaps unsurprising that I enjoyed the show a great deal. It is told (as the book also) from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, whose meteoric rise from vomiting on a Putney street to the court of Henry is the backdrop against which all this happens. We manage to follow events with which we are familiar (Katherine of Aragon will be divorced, Anne Boleyn will be be beheaded) with a certain amount of suspense.

So I’ve also seen all of “The Tudors,” which was rollicking good fun, if also absurd and superfluous. As I have said a million times: Henry VIII was a man who married six women AND had a world-changing fight with the Pope. It’s not strictly necessary to add ludicrous extraneous shagging.

And maybe “Wolf Hall” errs in the other direction, a little bit. Everything is dark, things are only intermittently explained (usually using Thomas Brodie Sangster as Cromwell’s slightly backward ward Rafe), and nothing is overstated. Still, that was most of the charm of the novels, so it’s unfair to complain about it in the series.

It is beautifully produced. Costumes are gorgeous and careful, artificial light is limited, meals are archaically choreographed. Mark Rylance (Cromwell) is excellent, though perhaps slightly too calm. Damian Lewis (Henry) seems to revel in an uncharacteristically petulant and unattractive part, and Anton Lesser also seems to enjoy playing Thomas More as a snake. Claire Foy (Anne) is slightly weak–just hateful, with no touch of humanity, even just before her execution.

This series is a capable adaptation of a pair of excellent novels. It’ll be a little slow for some, and the pacing is unpredictable, but this is in aid of mimicking the chaotic, uncertain nature of Cromwell’s real life. He himself is implausibly humane, but it’s important to have a rooting interest, and it doesn’t really bother you. I actually kept rooting for him to get laid, and was very cross at Mary Boleyn (Charity Wakefield, apparently condemned to flighty parts forever) for toying with him.

Director: Peter Kosminsky
Rating: R-ish?  Only for the swearing.
Length: 360 minutes
Score: 4/5

Twitter blurb: Tudor moodiness, but with way less sex and violence than usual. Thomas More is your villain, Henry still isn’t fat. Anne Boleyn? The worst.

If the spirit–or the internet–moves you to investigate Benedict Cumberbatch’s back catalogue, I don’t recommend this entry. [NB I was investigating Shaun Evans’s back catalogue, and so I’m not embarrassed.] This is the sort of movie in which everything is shot in poor lighting and nothing makes sense, in the name of verisimilitude. Probably in the name of realness, actually; verisimilitude isn’t a verisimilitudinous word. At any rate, prepare yourself for shots of wedding rings and stained glass in close up. This is deep.

Dawn (Claire Foy) and David (Mr. Cumberbatch) are married, have recently moved back to his childhood home in the country, and are trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. His brother Nick (Mr. Evans) arrives unannounced, with a penchant for petty larceny and an untreated case of PTSD. You will be shocked to learn that Dawn and David’s marriage starts to fall apart, but it’s not really for the reasons you’d expect or believe. People have kept secrets, people do rotten things, yadda yadda yadda.

But here’s the thing: you don’t care. You feel sorry for Nick, but his PTSD is played exclusively and reductively for pity. He’s just a wounded animal, and everyone treats him like an incontinent child. Dawn and David are ostensibly very much in love, but they mostly just mope and look bitter; David particularly is a cipher with occasional flashes of unlikely, exaggerated emotion. Motivations in general are barely sketched in, which is not what I’d call good story-telling. Dawn is the main character, I suppose, but things just happen to her, for no particular reason, and her own actions have no rationale. We cannot see into her head; still less into anyone else’s. It’s profoundly unsatisfying.

This is exactly the sort of semi-verité that everyone makes all the time now, and it’s slightly worse than all the rest. If you want your life to be made a misery, with a blue filter over the camera, inexplicable shouting, and unpleasant squalid love scenes, go ahead and watch this, but otherwise…

Director: D R Hood
Rating: R?
Length: 85 minutes
Score: 2/5. And probably only 1/5 if I hadn’t got to watch Claire Foy chuck an egg at somebody.

Twitter blurb: Wreckers: Baby-crazy pair lives in country; man’s brother shows up with PTSD and all explodes. Don’t keep hens or secrets, or sing in choirs.

Yeah, yeah, TV movie, whatever. Also, I didn’t think Going Postal was one of Terry Pratchett’s best, so I’m not going to evaluate the screen version on its fidelity to the original because a) I don’t remember, and b) I don’t care.

So…on the Discworld, which is an amazing universe that you should investigate at the earliest opportunity, there is a city called Ankh-Morpork, which is sort of modelled on Victorian London if there had been magic and wizards instead of TB and Chartists. It’s filthy, it’s bustling, it’s corrupt, it’s fascinating.

In this city, there is a man called Moist von Lipwig (Jeff from “Coupling”), and he is a con man. He is caught, and Lord Vetinari (played by Charles Dance and if you thought Tywin Lannister was devious and arachnid, you are a naïve fool) offers him the chance between death and re-opening the Post Office. Inexplicably he goes for the latter and gets entangled in various plots involving new technology (the clacks, a telegraph analogue), an attractive lady with a cigarette holder (Claire Foy), and golems.

As a movie it is eminently watchable. All of the actors are unexpectedly real (and don’t phone it in), the effects are almost all fine, and the world-building is surprisingly good. There’s a lot of ambient Discworld stuff that’s well executed even though it’s not strictly necessary. As an adaptation I also think it succeeds. It gets the Pratchett spirit to an extent I did not anticipate. The kookiness could easily have veered into irritating territory, but instead it was note-perfect.

Stray observations:

  • The banshee is terrible. Not sure why, since it was the only thing that really fell flat. The vampire was fine; the golems weren’t how I pictured them, but they weren’t bad.
  • Having seen Claire Foy first in eleven hours of Little Dorrit, it’s weird to see her as anything else. At least here she’s not shagging any Nazis.
  • Tamsin Greig! As usual amazing! Go watch “Green Wing” and “Black Books.” Immediately.
  • My biggest problem: Angua is too scary. You’re not supposed to be able to tell she’s a werewolf by looking. That would sort of defeat the purpose.

Director: Jon Jones
Rating: PG, maybe?
Length: 185 min.
Score: 3/5. I enjoyed it but I’m not exactly proud.