Archives for posts with tag: gina mckee

Boy howdy. When Galsworthy calls something a saga, he is not funning. I know this, because the miniseries takes many, many hours, and also because I read the immense book. It tells the story of a rich London family of solicitors (unsurprisingly, the Forsytes) from the late Victorian era through the early 1920s.

Broadly, there are three intertwining strands of this story. Strand 1 concerns Soames Forsyte (Damian Lewis), solicitor and control freak. Strand 2 is composed of his uncle, Old Jolyon Forsyte (Corin Redgrave), and his cousin, Young Jolyon Forsyte (Rupert Graves, in perhaps the only sympathetic part he has played since he hit 30), who are less conventional–Young Jolyon paints and leaves his wife and small daughter June (eventually Gillian Kearney) for the French governess. Strand 3 belongs to Irene Heron (Gina McKee), a very beautiful and serene and impoverished but also shockingly destructive woman, whom Soames marries. The marriage emphatically does not work out, and the circumstances of their separation drive forward the remainder of the main plot, which works itself out (very eventually) in the lives of their children from second marriages.

Galsworthy was careful to flesh out the Forsytes with both particular and family idiosyncrasies, and the series admirably follows his lead: Winifred (Amanda Root), Soames’s sister, impetuously marries the penniless but charming Montague Dartie (Ben Miles, in a really great part for him); their son Val (Julian Ovenden, very young and dashing) is an interesting study in the son who is always vaguely and sometimes acutely embarrassed by his father (their daughter Imogen is a non-entity); George Forsyte (Alistair Petrie), everybody’s cousin, is engagingly detached but somewhat spiderlike in the enjoyment he takes from observing everybody’s insecurities; Philip Bosinney (Ioan Gruffudd), an architect and June’s fiancé, wreaks truly astounding havoc, for entirely plausible reasons; a dozen others round out the splendid tableau.

Perhaps because most of the actions taken are those that human beings might take, it’s sometimes (though very much not always) hard to take sides. One is never bored. Everyone is well-cast, and, while some of the younger actors sometimes seem a bit tedious and melodramatic, that might really be how they’re supposed be.

The production is gorgeous throughout, in interiors particularly, and most especially with the house that Soames has built, designed by Bosinney. It is a triumph of Arts and Crafts: light, airy, and eminently livable. But the real visual interest of the series is in the clothes. We begin in frock coats and huge skirts, meander through bustles and Edwardian suits, and end in drapey post-war dresses with ankle-skimming hems. Irene wears the most beautiful red dress; all the artistic men wear colored shirts with soft neckties. Soames’s daughter gets him into a blazer, boater, and flannels! It is glorious.

Stray observations:

  • I lied: the real visual interest is the amazing proliferation of good-looking dudes. It’s a pity that Christian Coulson isn’t around for longer.
  • This has to be the only thing written in Britain in the first half of the 20th century that hardly deals with the Great War. No Forsyte serves (all too young or too old), though two went out as soldiers and two as nurses to South Africa in the Boer War. We do encounter a Belgian arms dealer and one young ex-officer.

Directors: Christopher Menaul, David Moore, Andy Wilson
Rating: TV, but PG-13ish
Length: 700 minutes
Score: 5/5

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Clive Owen is a writer. Clive Owen wears a black fedora while he writes. Clive Owen is broke. Clive Owen becomes a croupier. Clive Owen narrates his life in the third person. In his own words, he is addicted to watching people lose. Clive Owen, you are beginning to suspect, is kind of a jackass.

Croupier is narrated by the main character Jack (Mr. Owen), and the conceit is that he is writing a semi-autobiographical novel as events transpire. As conceits go, it’s not maddening. But Jack himself is maddening. He’s one of those chaps who is smug about his own iron moral compass (he does not, of course, gamble), but doesn’t really seem to notice when it hurts other people. He’s living with Marion (Gina McKee), but is mostly awful to her. He is of course annoyed by and spiteful to the publisher who will probably pass on his book, because he’s the only person who’s ever not been published. He’s very punch-happy, of course in the dead-eyed, casually violent manner we all remember from his turn in 2001’s Gosford Park. And, as in that wonderful film, he hates his dad. Maybe Croupier is what got him that part.

Oh, and then Alex Kingston arrives with a sob story, a criminal scheme, and a South African accent. Events transpire. They more or less make sense, but Jack is hard to root for, even when people are manipulating him. Everyone else is perhaps still more unpleasant, but that doesn’t really help. It’s extremely trying to watch someone think he’s better than everyone else, even if it’s true.

Stray observations:

  • Clothes for women in the 90s were so terrible and ill-tailored.
  • Clive Owen looks ridiculous with blond hair.
  • I’m not gambling-savvy enough to spot a lot of casino by-play. I’m okay with this.
  • I can’t stand Alex Kingston, because my first exposure to her was in terrible seasons of “Doctor Who.” This is not really her fault, but it’s also not going away.

Director: Mike Hodges
Rating: unrated, but about R
Length: 94 minutes
Score: 3/5