The Young Victoria (2009)

March 7, 2009

I’ve seen about five films in a row without posting any notes on here, so they’ll be necessarily brief.  But that’s okay, there’s not too much to say about this really.  It has sumptuous costumes and settings, is well acted in the main by some top European actors (and we should be thankful that Keira Knightly wasn’t asked to portray the overweight monarch) and has a vaguely diverting story by the almost excellently named Julian Fellowes.  But it’s just a bit crap.  Costume dramas tend to be, perhaps it’s the period detail that distracts but I think it’s more likely that the authentically stilted dialogue works against the building up of suspense or drama or intrigue unless it is really, really well written and rendered (as in David Lean’s Great Expectations) for example.

Apart from that, there is always the problem- when making a biopic about a period of someone’s life- about how to ensure that you leave nothing unresolved.  Life simply isn’t like that and only death can really finalise matters in the way that suits a movie.  This issue is dealt with here by having half of the bad guys sent away and the remainder repenting having seen Albert take a bullet aimed at Victoria and realising that he’s more of a brainbox, hero and all-round nice guy than the conniving German sausage they had originally taken him for.  Simplistic and unsatisfying, especially in the case of Paul Bettany who had built his character’s wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing persona beautifully until he had to simply front up that Albert was tops with him.  Albert, by the way, seems to have hair that changes colour from one scene to the next.  I’ll put it down to my eyesight but it could just be that it was inconsistently dyed or managed over the course of the shooting of the film.

So anyway, Emily Blunt is passable in the lead role (if miscast physically), Jim Broadbent- who has previously played the role of Albert- has a nice cameo with a great King William quiff, Miranda Richardson underplays the role of wicked Mother well and Mark Strong is both brooding and boring as the thoroughly 2D bad-guy Sir John Conroy.  The whole thing is passably directed and the cinematography (by Hagen Bogdanski, the guy who did The Lives of Others) is markedly hit-and-miss, doing the easy things badly and the hard things well.

So it’s better than I expected but, if I’m honest, still a failure.  But a very pretty one.  With some nice wigs and pairs of trousers on display throughout.  It isn’t quite the sum of it’s parts, but it will do nice business at the Box Office.  No-one’s career will be any the worse for it and everyone’s happy.  Moderate ambitions, moderate achievement.  5/10

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Get Carter (2000)

January 9, 2009

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Tonight is a special night, at my mate Handsome Gav’s house we’re watching the three versions of Get Carter that we know about in reverse chronological order.

First up, Stallone’s remake. I’ve never seen this but I remember Stallone doing a big cover story with Arena magazine ahead of the movie’s scheduled cinematic release. In the interview Stallone was asked whether his Carter died at the end as Michael Caine’s had in the original. His reply was that “he has a spiritual death and rebirth”. Oh dear. The cinematic release was pulled then and this film went straight to DVD. Plenty to be wary of there.

I’m not going to dwell too long on this film, it is as woefully bad as I’d imagined, but I will just comment quickly on the liberties they’ve taken with the original. The dead brother Frank is renamed Richie for no apparent reason, his wife is brought back to life in the shape of Miranda Richardson (there’s someone who really should know better), the gangster Kinnear- now renamed Jeremy Kinnear- is a gay billionaire computer programmer, Carter’s Boss Les (formerly Sid) Fletcher gets to know about Carter and his girlfriend fifteen minutes in.

What they appear to have decided in conceiving this remake is that the original would benefit from a washed-out, anaemic, colourless visual style and looking like a car advert. In fully bringing the concept up to date, they roped in hot music producer Jellybean Benitez to add some dance beats to Roy Budd’s superb original soundtrack. Jellybean is the man who wrote Madonna’s “Holiday”- a song that is about as old as I am. Couldn’t they get anyone better than that for fuck’s sake?

The iconic moments in the original film are reproduced here in a sadly diluted form- “you’re a big man but you’re in bad shape” is delivered by a seated Stallone in a calm manner to a standing Caine cameoing in Alf Roberts’ part (Stallone had to be seated I suppose, he’s giving away about six inches to Caine) and “your eyes look like pissholes in the snow” becomes the frankly nonsensical “you look like cat’s piss in the snow”. They have attempted, I suppose, to create their own memorable dialogue but it is insipid and uninspired. Several times Stallone threatens to “take it to another level”, Alan Cummings’ “you know why I like golf?” speech is especially awful and only Stallone’s “it’s good to be home” after duffing up a local is at all interesting.

What they’ve done here is to shake up the script (change the order and several of the character names swap places in the script) it’s a puny rewrite. By revealing that Carter can never go back from the outset the suspense that made the original is lost, instead we get a watered-down Carter (Caine’s was driven by blind hatred, Stallone’s is driven by a sense of remorse) who talks throughout about doing something right for once and making up for his mistakes. The dumbed-down script where a bloke from Scrubs appears throughout to talk to Carter and explain like a child’s narrator what has happened so far is insulting. I got so angry watching this that it isn’t funny.

Positives are very few and far between- Caine really gives his part every chance and that’s the only one that I can think of. One good point, therefore, 1/10.