Archives for posts with tag: miranda richardson

Ugh. I hate that I love this movie. Maybe even more than I hate that I sort of love the stage show. There are just so many layers of awfulness. Movies of stage musicals are often pretty bad; Andrew Lloyd Webber is always desperately terrible; the Gaston Léroux source material could be a whole lot better; Emmy Rossum can’t really sing…

And yet.

MV5BNDczNzg4OTM3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTQzMTEzMw@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Sure, Phantom is dumb. Sure, the plot requires everyone to be a really staggering moron. Sure, Gerard Butler is weird casting and what even are the logistics of that spectacular subterranean flat? How is his suit so well cut? How is the piano kept in tune in that humidity? Would you trust the sewers of Paris that much? Why does Raoul have that haircut, which no one has ever had? Why can’t Christine pronounce “Raoul”? Why does she insist on a secret engagement but make out in public? Since when are Hannibal and Imilce one of history’s great romances? How can Christine possibly think this guy is her dad?

On a more formal level, why not have actual musical actors instead of film actors who can sort of sing? Everyone’s fine, sure, but, again, kind of resoundingly…fine. Why not scrub up the inconsistencies that are acceptable on the stage but do not meet the movie threshold for suspension of disbelief?

But even with all that, with Raoul’s horrible hair and the unbelievably terrible lyrics and the insane Freudian nonsense, I watch it at least once a year. The romance should make me barf, but it doesn’t. The production should just annoy me, but it doesn’t. I should never watch it again, but I do.

Director: Joel Schumacher
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes

Advertisements

The current trend of biography is lengthy and complicated (see “The Crown,” or “Victoria”), which is possibly admirable. If, however, you are looking for the film biography equivalent of a chocolate soufflé, look no further than The Young Victoria.

As the title suggests, this film deals only with the early, Cinderella-type years of Victoria’s life, when she falls in love and is kind of bad at being the queen, and before she gets jowly and depressing. Helpfully, Victoria’s life was peopled with engagingly cartoonish heroes and villains, and they find excellent avatars here. Victoria (Emily Blunt) is so young, and slightly too pretty, and she is liable to listen to Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) because he is handsome and she is frighteningly sheltered. Her mother (Miranda Richardson) and Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong) would like to control her, and have made a decent go of it for the first 17 years of her life. Sir John is so evil, and so delightful. He wears amazing trousers.

mv5bmtm4mjexmdk3nv5bml5banbnxkftztcwmtu3otmwmw-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Enter Albert (Rupert Friend), who is also unbelievably young, and unbelievably Romantically German. His hair! His shirtsleeves! His awkward love of Schubert! His hilariously tolerant brother Ernest (Michiel Huisman)! Apparently Ernest was awful in real life, but here he just rolls his eyes when Albert is adorably dumb about Sir Walter Scott.

To be sure, the most interesting thing about Victoria was not her romantic life, but it makes a good feature film. She and Albert are so young, and so silly, and so in love, and so well dressed. They care just enough about the poor and about progress that you aren’t grossed out by their fake problems. You’re sad when they fight and pleased when they make up, and why can’t some dreamy moron come visit me with a pair of giant dogs?

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Rating: PG
Length: 105 minutes
Score: 5/5

If you want to watch this for Benedict Cumberbatch, he’s great in it, but be warned: to play Christopher Tietjens properly, he abandons almost all of his vanity and makes his face as unattractive as he is able, and attempts to make his body appear hulking and clumsy.

Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy Parade’s End, as is usual with Ford Madox Ford, has an unbelievably acute sense of how humanity operates, and is not hopeful about it. People cheat, and then manage to be worse to each other when they are not cheating. Totally inaccurate gossip ruins lives because of malice and laziness, not necessarily in that order. And despite the monumental efforts of many, the Great War was unfairly, desperately, but also bureaucratically, horrible. Somehow, Tom Stoppard’s screenplay manages to capture almost all of the novels’ uncomfortable perspicacity without stumbling into clumsy exposition. But that is perhaps unsurprising, because Tom Stoppard is a genius.

Christopher Tietjens (Cumberbatch) holds a minor but important position in the Department of Imperial Statistics. He is a large blond man from Yorkshire, scrupulously, even maddeningly exact, and unwisely generous. His wife, Sylvia (Rebecca Hall), is a perfect portrait of the type of woman who can get away with everything from general obnoxiousness up because she is so exceedingly lovely. She runs away with a poor sap called Potty Perowne (Tom Mison, with a fussy mustache). Christopher always thinks ahead and is unfailingly decent to and about her; that, in combination with her beauty, means that everyone thinks that she is a saint. The same people immediately believe that Christopher has any number of mistresses, including a young suffragist called Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens).

He of course does not. He would like to, but he is too much of the Tory, and nothing at all of the hypocrite. Instead, he does his job, lends money to his friend McMaster (Stephen Graham), helps everyone he can, and finally becomes a reluctant but capable officer. He sounds perfect, perhaps, but there is an excessive rigidity about him that is troubling–in Ford’s perfect description, he is the type of Tory who would never lift a finger except to say “I told you so.”

The production is near-perfect. Time passes in the shapes of skirts and hats; Morris wallpapers cede to muddy trenches; a glitzy party in what I believe is Lord Leighton’s house gives way to a sad billet near the Front. One might find the pacing slightly slow, but it is in the service of actual drama rather than the manufactured kind. As with Brideshead Revisited, a feature film of this would be heavy-handed and dreadful.

Cumberbatch gamely wears a uniform two sizes too large and screws up his face so that it is not ludicrous when Miss Wannop tells him he is not so terribly ugly after all. Hall’s glorious halo of hair makes her believable as the spiteful femme fatale who is never so recognized. Graham and Anne-Marie Duff (as his wife), are by turns arrogantly social-climbing and cringingly pusillanimous. Not grateful parts, but well-acted. The rest of the large cast also performs admirably; a few are in parts that, even in the novel, are slightly two-dimensional to throw the three main figures into sharper relief.

It’s terrific.

Stray observations:

  • Every single thing Rebecca Hall wears is beautiful.
  • Rufus Sewell is perfectly cast as the gorgeous but deranged and oversensual Fr. Duchemin.
  • Denis Lawson has a small part!

Director: Susanna White
Rating: equivalent to TV-MA, I’d definitely say
Length: 287 minutes
Score: 5/5

This movie is basically Love Actually but sadder and more French. I had an actual post but managed to hit the backspace in the wrong field and so that’s all you get for now. Maybe I’ll update later.

Edited: Right, okay, I’m now less annoyed, and fortunately I remembered not to close the TextEdit window with my notes in it.

The framework of this movie: each of twenty directors gets five minutes and Paris. You get roughly what you’d expect out of these; in the Coen Brothers’ contribution, Steve Buscemi gets beat up in a métro station. There’s only the most half-hearted attempt to relate the stories to one another, and I think maybe I wish they’d not bothered. Anyway, I’ve seen more irritating love letters to Paris, and at least this one puts it out there with its title.

Since the movie is a bit fragmented, I’ll move straight to the stray observations. I won’t treat each vignette, because some of them are just too predictable and unmemorable (Gus Van Sant, I’m looking at you).

  • Unlike Love Actually, this film has people who are actually poor or desperately unlucky, not just amusingly bohemian Kris Marshall. Unsurprisingly, this is sad. In fact, one of my notes just says: “sad immigrant from Lagos oh my god so sad.”
  • A horrible French child with a pea-shooter annoys Steve Buscemi as well. The horrible French child is the best part of that sketch.
  • Juliet Binoche sure has a face for tragedy.
  • Rufus Sewell and Emily Mortimer visit Oscar Wilde’s grave in Père Lachaise. She accuses him of being humorless, although this is not true (his offering for that brilliant man’s last words–“Bury me under something ugly”–made me laugh out loud), because what she wants from a man is that he is so hilarious that he quotes Wilde all the time. I submit, honey, that you might be doing it wrong, romance-wise.
  • I hate mimes. And I know everyone hates mimes, but there’s a reason for that.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is appearing in a period drama. I’d laugh, but I saw Hysteria, so it just isn’t funny.
  • When you hear English in a French film, it sounds slow and stilted. Native English speakers sound as though they have some sort of aphasia. It’s not quite as painful as a sudden American in a British movie.
  • I did not expect Olga Kurylenko to be my first doubled actor.

Director: Everybody ever; or: Olivier Assayas, Frédéric Auburtin & Gérard Depardieu, Emmanuel Benbihy, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydès, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, Gus Van Sant
Length: 120 min.
Rating: R, for not a lot of reason except maybe the swearing in the Coen Brothers bit
Score: 2/5? I found exactly one vignette touching (“Place des Fêtes”), a few pretty, and the Gurinder Chadha one (“Quais de Seine”) cute if fairy-tale. I’m not mad at it.