Archive for the ‘Russell Crowe’ Category

Rough Magic

07 May

Rough Magic – written and directed by Clare Peploe. Screwball Comedy. 104 minutes. 1997.


The Story: A magician’s assistant flees the claws of a billionaire who wants to marry her.


Have you missed this marvel?

Don’t continue in that error one day more.

Not being a fan of Russell Crowe, I approach the endeavor warily. But this is made at the moment of L.A. Confidential and he is 30 and has ripened up just fine. It’s interesting to observe his acting instrument, the spread of energy natural to him that enables him to consume the screen – indeed to the exclusion of any other star equal to him. Two suns side by side often don’t work. Here he must play the suing lover, which means he is a bottom; he must play in subordination to the woman. It works for him. And it brings up a side of him that I prefer. Gladiator go home.

But let us set that aside for even better things.

First of all this is a movie made by a woman about a woman. Clare Peploe is the writer-director, and the film reflects her values which I like, and which take us into the land of magic both fundamental and false. Screwball comedy is the genre, if you like. And the rendering of it is blunt, various, saucy, always fun.

Playing the leading role is Briget Fonda, and is she good! She fits right into the bold outlines of the character, and you believe right off in her daring, aplomb, wit, and suffering. She is a lovely actor and I wish she were before us more.

The great Jim Broadbent makes up the trio, and he is at his simply-marvelous best. It’s a great big dolloping part – just what we want him to have. He plays an inept sidewalk pharmacist, con man, and raider of ancient civilizations. He is accompanied by a dog.

I love comedy, and this one has the bright notion to shift its locale to Mexico in pursuit of a rare potion which makes those who imbibe into true magicians. Or perhaps it is better to say, it makes them truly what they are.

So we have Cliff Wyatt as the insufferable billionaire of D.W. Moffett. It’s lovely to see in him what good actors we have in ourAmerican pantry. We have our favorite Richard Schiff as his flunky waiting in the wings all this time. We have Kenneth Mars launching his big style into the role of the stage magician and master hand. We have lovely Mexican actors carrying through their parts like champions.

I love this film. I love its color. I love the way it was done, and how. How it was done was what it said. And for me that makes for the most intimate of entertainments. How about you?



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Posted in Briget Fonda, Jim Broadbent, Richard Schiff, Russell Crowe, SCREWBALL COMEDY


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.


The Next Three Days

20 Nov

The Next Three Days –– directed by Paul Haggis –– suspense thriller about a woman convicted of murder and her husband who is not at all convicted she did it. Color 2010.

* * * * *

Well, you may wonder if you are in your ripe forties and had the part Russell Crowe plays here how well could you play it? Not within a mile as well as Russell Crowe does, was my answer as I watched. He is in his scruffy three-days-unshaven mode here, and he is in the hands of rough story that carries us into its surprises without betraying our credulity. Crowe plays a man unexceptionally in love with his wife, well played by Elizabeth Banks, and the conviction he brings to his feeling for her is the carrying force of the film on an emotional level. This love is put to the test by his own foolish plans to rescue her which projects us into the level of action, where the film is never still, always thrusting us forward into its next frustration, calamity, conniption. Crowe is in virtually every scene, and his registration as an actor is sterling throughout. He is always on the emotional and physical money. The film, however, is grounded, not by this performance but by the writing and direction and playing of his son, who is quiet and calm and patient, and represents the unspoken value system of the piece therefore. True, the director takes us past certain improbabilities to reach its excitement, but they vanish swiftly as the plot parts and lets us in on it. Liam Neeson has one scene, and he is superb in it. Altogether a well-written, tightly told  action adventure piece, beautifully produced, costumed, cast, written, designed, and performed.


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