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Archive for the ‘Anne Hathaway’ Category

Les Misérables

25 Jan

Les Misérables – directed by Tom Hooper. Musical-melodrama. A prisoner upon his release breaks parole and is hounded by a magistrate all his life, despite his reformed nature. 158 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★
Many people relate to this material, for it has had a world-wide success which in no way will this film abate. But I am baffled as to why.

All I can suppose is that in an age of crass and faithless self-deception such as ours, the noble strain in humans is invisible, and that folks want to go along with and believe in someone who is faithful, not crass, and undeceiving at heart. Few modern screen actors possess a noble strain, and Hugh Jackman certainly is one of them, and is so obvious for the part one is shocked to hear others had been considered. Jackman has done various musicals before, and has the voice to boot. It is a treat to watch his beautiful face.

The terrible difficulty is that the music is paltry.

The terrible difficulty with the music is that every time someone belches they go into an aria. Every time someone walks through a door, they start singing. It’s a through-written musical, but it never knows when to be through.

The difficulty is that the part of Éponine scrambles to the fore at a late stage, where it is needed not at all, and performs nothing but a drain on our loyalties.

The difficulty is that Russell Crowe cannot perform the role of Javert, the magistrate, either musically or dramatically. He stands there pumping his energy out in little spurts. But what you need to do to play that part is either be Charles Laughton or watch what Charles Laughton did. Javert is a great role, and Laughton’s is one of the great characterizations ever put on film. Crowe’s performance is a nullity.

The supporting performances are fine, more or less, right from the stage though they are. And someone should win an Oscar for the wigs. Anne Hathaway sings her number well. Helen Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen make hay with the Master Of The House material, which is more stage-worthy than cinematic, but never mind. And Eddie Redmayne, once again miscast as a romantic lead, nevertheless once again rises to the occasion and sings all his little songs well.

All his little songs. There are no other sorts of songs, save the big patter numbers, which are the usual Broadway stuff (and welcome). Every time someone sings one of these little songs, they become self-tragic. And each time they do, the story diminishes in size, just as the songs do, just as the character who sings the song does. Everything gets littler. Perhaps that’s what miserableness means.

There is an opening image of a great huge foundering frigate being dragged into drydock. It seems a suitable symbol for Les Misérables, a vast dismembered hulk hauled before us.

 

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

20 Jul

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises – directed by Christopher Nolan. Comic Book Action Adventure. Batman wants to retire. but no; the forces of virtue and of evil must be met. 164 minutes Color 2012.

★★★★★

A tragic aura dogs the claws of Batman, or at least dogs the velvet slippers of Bruce Wayne, and it’s fragrance imbues all who come in contact with him, from Michael Caine, who plays his loyal godsbody all the way to Anne Hathaway who plays the Catlady, a sort of second story jewel thief whose wit almost cuts through the sorrows of our hero, valiantly played by Christian Bale. Hathaway supplies the only comic relief of this piece and the actress is brilliant at it; one sighs with relief whenever her impudent self appears before us. As to the rest of the cast, they are the best actors in the world. Gary Oldman as the chief of police with a dark secret of his own; Tom Hardy as the heaviest heavy in all hell; Marion Cotillard as the billionairess out to save the day; Morgan Freeman as the keeper of the flame of Bruce Wayne’s fortune and dangerously advanced experiments. Then we have Matthew Modine as the cocky cowardly cop and Liam Neeson who is the cause of it all and Joseph Gordon-Levitt terrific as Batman’s volunteer helper. And the reason all is well with the acting is that the script is tops, with many diversions and excursions, examinations, and analyses, blasts and bombs and a flying bat jalopy and leaps and bounds, and so many long corridors of interest and imagination that one is lost, until the story finds one again at the end, the ends, the loose ends. I shall spoil nothing by saying that the obvious difference from this and all other Batman movies, aside from the superiority of the script, is that the big branagan at the end, and lots that lead up to is, is shot in full daylight. Batman was ordinarily a nocturne, wasn’t it? The Dark Knight operated only in The Dark Night? Because? Because why? Because he was a bat!

 

 

Becoming Jane

02 Mar

Becoming Jane — directed by Julian Jarrold. Romantic Drama. Desperate pressures to get her married beset a lovely 18 Century bluestocking eventually to become Jane Austen. 120 minutes Color 2007.

★★★★

Set here in Ireland acting as Berkshire and perfectly cast as a late 18th Century place, one feels absolutely at home in the rough, peeling-painted, rectory-cum-farm of the film’s landscape, which never fails one second of this film’s footage to look right. What does fail is the sound and sound editing. The music, which is excellent, is always too loud, never more so than in the ballroom scene early on when not a single sentence of the dialogue can be heard above it. The actors do not help, either, for they believe, perhaps, that wit depends upon speed of utterance, and it does not. The elaboration of syntax, upon which much of the wit of Austen and the age depends, requires a careful mouthing. A tasting. A lingual pondering. Like wine. And dare I say it? – a drawl. It cannot be spit out like shot. Oscar Wilde was not at all like Noel Coward. And this is the age of Byron, behind whose drawl massed the power of his position and the greatness of the style of Don Juan. Ian Richardson knows the truth. His buffalo brow of disapproval looms like a dark eave over his enunciation of sentences of death. American actors think wit requires speed. Sometimes it does. But only for arrows. Austen’s zingers even when brief are instinctually weighted, tremendously elaborated shafts sent over the immense distance of a banquet table. These the actors tend to pipe or whisper. Not good. Certainly Maggie Smith understands this as she pecks apart her opponents with her chicken head beak and eyes wider than judgment. Her character relishes speech. For her, for the English, not just language, but speech is a consummate and delicious sterling silver tool. Perfectly cast, the film is also beautifully arranged for our enjoyment by the director and costumer. Anne Hathaway could not be bettered in the role of Jane; she has the intelligence, the strength of a love of independence, and no sense that she is using her looks to land a mate. She never flirts. She also understand speriod style. James McAvoy, on the other hand, is required to use his looks, and he is suitably combed and brushed and decked, and plays the part with no frippery extras but with great earnestness. (One wonders if he will ever graduate out of the category of jeune premier.) You quite believe the attraction between the two, which counts for a lot, although it does not directly feed the real plot of the film, which is how this enforces a literary imagination in the making. Julie Walters is grand as the mother of the daughters, particularly in her big scene hoeing potatoes, and James Cromwell as the minister has just the right looseness of attention to suggest his failing bank account. It is a film whose ending does not work. It needs the same ending as Splendor In The Grass: two lovers see one another after fifteen years, and it should break your heart. Instead of which it dissipates into the sentimental distraction of his having named his daughter Jane. Responsibility to historical accuracy shoots it dead in its traces. But by that time, a pretty good film is over.

 

Rachel Getting Married

18 Feb

Rachel Getting Married – Directed by Jonathan Demme —  Drama. Released from rehab, the sister of the bride returns to the madhouse of her family for a wedding. 113 minutes Color 2008

* * * * *

The features accompanying the film are quite interesting. As is the picture itself. We have the inestimable Debra Winger fascinating. The story hinges on her being that, and that alone, but the story also is one which the watcher must tell all by observation as though one were Declan Quinn’s camera, for the story is not spelled out, nor should it be. Bill Irwin plays the father of the three children, and he loves them, but he is an idiot and quite clueless about all of them. It’s a welcome piece of narrative strategy on the part of the screenwriter, Miss Lumet. The picture is easily acted, and we drift along with it through the rooms of a wonderful big house, which we are home in, and know by heart, which is why things don’t have to be spelled out. One can read these people without earphones. It’s as though we were invited guests to this melting pot marriage and were somehow privy to the internal and infernal goings on. Ann Hathaway is just grand as the irritating self-centered sister of Rachel. It’s an easy role to play but she does it beautifully, even down to the most irritating haircut ever seen on a human being and all the wrong clothes. This is not a romantic comedy; all these people are in their thirties. And Rosemary Dewitt is excellent as Rachel, although she has terrible voice production on the Special Feature she voice-overs. Never mind. The film itself is vital, natural, commanding. Of course, it’s not for everybody, but then, nothing ever is.

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Love And Other Drugs…

05 Jan

Love And Other Drugs… –– directed by Edward Zwick –– romantic drama in which a supersalesman roué falls in bed with a lady with a dubious future. 2010 color.

* * * * *

Jill Clayburgh’s last film, and the sort of picture that she and Burt Reynolds would have made forty years ago beautifully. That is to say a rather modern-mouthed and good looking young woman meets a handsome swordsman, and they bed down and they clash over some issue or other and then they make up. You know what I mean: the sort of film in which everything depends on the wit and the skill of the script and the wit and skill and personalities of the two actors, and the ground of the quarrel somehow dissolves by the last dissolve, doesn’t it? Here, however, the obstacle for both is that one of them has Parkinson’s, which will not dissolve. This seems like a put-up job in a way, but everyone does take it as seriously as they can, given a script which, while most times smart and fun and surprising, nonetheless becomes sometimes routine. In romantic drama the director must never run the risk of the grounds for a redundant emotional effect. Jake Gyllenhaal is inventive, lively, and various as the male, and Anne Hathaway is fascinating as the female. Won’t they get Golden Globes or Oscars or both? Probably. Oliver Platt is wonderful as Gyllanhaal’s boss, and Hank Azaria is remarkable as his hapless brother. One doubt one must set aside is the certainty that a sexual relation of such ferocity would not end up in a relationship. And another trouble is that the love affair lacks the relief and slant of any spirit of community, of friends, of town-folk, and there is but one short scene of Gyllenhaal’s family with George Segal as his father and as his mother the great, the elegant Jill Clayburgh, who has but one small moment on screen, her last, her final word being: “cake”!

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