Thursday, October 28, 2010
Los Angeles goes all-out new age in Lisa Cholodenko's queer comedy-drama The Kids Are All Right. Starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore as lesbian couple Nic and Jules, the film explores their family life with teen kids Joni (as in Joni Mitchell, Mia Wasikowska fresh from Wonderland), a whip-smart yet uptight scientist like Nic, and Laser (Josh Hutcherson) the "sensitive jock". Laser asks Joni to find their biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo) and a relationship between the organic farmer-cum-restauranteur and his new-found children quickly develops, shifting the family dynamics.
Ruffalo plays to type well without appearing two-dimensional, all the while encouraging real growth of character without the touchy-feely nonsense at home. While their language often detracts from the message, The Kids are All Right is a well-written drama and deferential take on gay relationships. Bening’s controlling streak and unwillingness to connect with Paul pushes her to the outer boundaries of the family, making her a hard-faced villain for much of the picture. Meanwhile Moore reels it in as the insecure Jules, whose missteps and atonement echo throughout the tone of the film.
Though it is by no means groundbreaking, the colourful photography and personalities combined with excellent performances lend it a fresh, authentic feel.
The Kids Are All Right is released in UK cinemas on Friday 29 October.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Donkeys, the follow-up to Andrea Arnold's BAFTA winning Red Road had its World Premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival this June.
The second feature from the Advance Party Project - a Scottish-Danish collaboration with Lars Von Trier's Zentropa - stars James Cosmo, Brian Pettifer, Martin Compston, and Kate Dickie. The tangled tale of friendship, forgiveness, and deep-seated family secrets enjoyed its initial release at Glasgow Film Theatre last week.
Befitting its Scottish setting, public screenings begin next week at the Filmhouse Cinema from Monday 1 to Thursday 4 November. Sigma films announced earlier this week that Donkeys will also screen for one week at Glasgow Cineworld from Friday 29 October to Thursday 4 November. All of this is possible thanks to the Digital Screen Network initiative set up by the former UK Film Council to give smaller films a chance to spotlight amongst the Hollywood bigwigs.
Donkeys is also rounding up film and media students, with rumblings on their Facebook page about a 'Donkey Work' Competition. So far all we know is that winners will spend a day on set with Citadel - Sigma's new film - from November 21. Check out the Donkeys Facebook page for updates.
I hope if you're in Edinburgh or Glasgow you'll get a chance to see it! I'll be catching it at the Cineworld and will report back with a review.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
It is near impossible not to love the superlative Mr Stephen Fry.
From the first chapter to the final page The Fry Chronicles dishes out tasty tidbits and positively loquacious prose. Spanning 8 years, it picks up where his first memoir - the mysteriously titled Moab is My Washpot - left off, the summer before his inauguration to Queens' College at Cambridge. His college years focused (somewhat ironically, as he wanted to be a teacher) little on academia and heavily on acting and his introduction to comedy.
Chummed with Emma Thompson and Hugh Laurie, their quick procession through university into television moves swiftly. The most enjoyable passages for me were Fry's self-deprecating reflections on his writing, smoking a pipe, and general ecstasy as he gained notoriety and quickly became a full-time computer nerd and writer. While many of the anecdotes about fruitless collaborations with comedy peers like Ben Elton and Rik Mayall became stale, his reflections on book reviewing in the age of motorcycle messengers is a marvel.
Though I didn't love it, the first 200 pages were certainly more enjoyable than the last. Fry's verbosity quickly grows tiresome, particularly for memoir addicts like me. If you're a Fry enthusiast, however, I urge you to check it out for yourself.
Housekeeping! Apologies for my recent hiatus, but I'm pleased to announce that this is Uncultured Critic's 100th post! I've never kept a blog this meticulously, so thank you all so much for reading and for your brilliant, regular, & thoughtful comments. I will be posting twice weekly for the time being on Tuesdays & Thursdays with the odd Saturday thrown in. Don't forget you can follow me by RSS, on Twitter, or on Facebook for regular updates. As always, your thoughts are really valuable, so if you have any comments or suggestions, don't hesitate to contact me. Have a great week!
Friday, October 8, 2010
This review was originally published at Venus Zine
Tamara Drewe is Stephen Frears' film adaptation of an adaptation. Based on the graphic novel and weekly Guardian comic strip by Posy Simmonds of the same name, the original Tamara Drewe is in turn a modern take on Thomas Hardy's nineteenth century novel Far from the Madding Crowd.
Set in England's small-town countryside, the film is based around a writer's retreat run by crime novelist and serial adulterer Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam) and his devoted wife Beth (an unnervingly excellent Tamsin Greig). One guest is a bumbling American biographer named Glen McCreavy (Bill Camp), who works his way into proceedings, along with the handyman and local farmboy Andy Cobb (Luke Evans). Wreaking havoc upon the village, along with a rogue dog, are isolated teenaged neighbours Jody and Casey.
Tamara Drewe, unduly billed as the village protagonist, is not too far from the Maddening Crowd at all. Played by Gemma Arteton, she is frustratingly sidelined with a mere fraction of the screen time. Arriving around 15 minutes in, and not introduced until later, the film hinges on her being misunderstood. Drewe's personality is dissected by the villagers from a great distance, based upon memories of her as an unhappy, big-nosed schoolgirl. Having left the village years earlier following the death of her mother, Tamara returns with a new nose and new-found confidence. As farmboy Andy was born in her old home, they are inextricably linked. With nary a batted eyelid, he is quickly in the palm of her well-manicured hands. A journalist, Tamara plans on selling the house and moving on. When she interviews the drummer of the latest pop band, however, she winds up bringing him home (much to Jody's dismay) and finding that a peaceful life of writing was what she was looking for all along.
During her tryst with drummer Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) he proposes but cannot stand small-town life. They soon move away to London, and Jody begins to meddle by sending provocative emails from Tamara's account. Upon Tamara's return home, she engages in an adulterous relationship with Nicholas, forcing Beth and Glen closer together and the rest of the village apart.
The film's strength lies in its casting, with an amazing ensemble of actors who all shine in equal measure. Luke Evans is the only let down as Andy, a two-dimensional workman whose eyes are set on Tamara and never flinch. Tamsin Greig plays the wronged wife as both strong and weak with class and originality. Cooper's tough demeanour hides a soft spot that Jody taps into with her fame-obsessed rigor. The characters play off one another in a game of power and lust throughout that never feels contrived.
Ultimately the plot lines are stretched until they begin to fray—much of that is told through expertly captured glances and love games that are, at times, over-explained. However, Tamara Drewe is an entertaining parochial drama with its heart in the right place.
Tamara Drewe is released in US cinemas on Friday, 8 October.