State Of Play (2009)

April 27, 2009

lahr-crowe

There’s a few minor problems in making these notes.  Firstly, the film that the cinema listed as beginning at 19.45 was past the opening credits when I took my seat at 19.45 and who knows what I missed (not much I imagine in truth as big fat Russell Crowe- who looks increasingly like Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion (see above)- was bribing his way onto the scene of the first crime scene as I arrived).  The second issue is that the film was followed by a televised Q&A with the director Kevin MacDonald and I want to satisfy myself that my notes reflect what I saw and not what I’ve been told I saw.  I’d forgotten until I saw the film that I’ve seen (at least some of) the original BBC series upon which it was based. Thankfully my recollections were not strong enough to spoil the plot or for me to draw comparisons with the original players. In fact the greater danger lies in my having seen Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men and The Parallax View; which are the more significant touchstones for the piece (Klute, another probable antecedent of State Of Play, is near the top of my teetering to-see pile).  The final problem is that- thanks to a combination of hectic work, golf, season 2 of The Wire, training for a charity run and socializing- I saw the film seven days before sitting down to complete these notes.

And while seven days ago I didn’t dislike it, on reflection I certainly don’t especially like it either.  The plus points are some strong acting performances (and I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Crowe back to acting after his recent experiments with sleep-walking through films), some tight direction and editing and a really good pacy build-up to the climax.  Ah, the climax- I didn’t want to get to the climax straight away (and I swear that never normally happens!) but I may as well now.  In the enjoyable light comedy Paris When It Sizzles William Holden is talking Audrey Hepburn through the writing of a script (“aha! The twist… then the twist on the twist… and another twist” or something) and that’s what the ending of this film reminded me of.  I guess it’s true of thrillers in general but especially of this film- not every twist can be plausible and, when you’re ending on a solid and believable one, it doesn’t work to shoehorn in another one.  Especially if the tip-off clue isn’t much of a clue at all.  In State Of Play the tip-off is that a character reveals that she knows something which she shouldn’t leading Russell Crowe to uncover the whole thing.  But it doesn’t- not plausibly and his deduction is not the only (or even the likeliest) logical conclusion.  A solid but unspectacular thriller becomes, therefore, a flimsy melodrama.  It’s a real shame given the effort that had so clearly been invested in the piece.

The only other thing that stands out is that the soundtrack is absolutely fucking appalling- bombastic, overloud, generic and off-putting.  I was grumpy about it throughout and in the Q&A MacDonald indicated that he’d been unable to find a score which he thought was appropriate and the studio agreed with until the eleventh hour (he implied that he wanted something soft and piano-led).  He got what he was given I reckon, a shame.

Oh yes, and that feller off the Orange adverts is in it as a straight actor.  As is Jeff Daniels of one of the funniest films ever; Dumb And Dumber.

Anyway, 4/10 overall.  Solid except for Ben ‘Easter Island’ Affleck; he is appalling as ever.

affleck-easter


The Queen (2006)

March 3, 2009

I didn’t enjoy this at all.  It was arid and joyless and unengaging.  I found myself thinking, to my shame, that Mirren played her role excellently as did Sheen but I just didn’t care about any of it.  The premise of the film is actually really interesting, though, so I can’t put my finger on what went wrong.   Probably a combination of the dull and turgid dialogue (accurate though it doubtless is) and the styling of the film.  The actual footage used may well give the film an authenticity, but it also highlights the fact that this is a dramatisation and compromises the whole premise.

Interestingly I read Alastair Campbell’s diaries last year and the most vivid chapters concern this period.  The Queen chimes almost exactly with events as Campbell described them meaning that either he is spot on or that, as the only published diaries of one of the prominent players at the time, they are the main source.  If so, they’re far more interesting to read than see- even if the film does offer a better insight from the Monarch’s perspective.

I was also really distracted by Dudley Smith from L.A. Confidential playing Prince Philip (badly).  Mind you any distractions were welcome by the time he appeared.  The only bright spot was Blair’s famous hand-kiss gaffe making it on screen.  Oh I’m bored just writing about it.  2/10, two marks for the performances.  A real wasted opportunity.

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