Archive for the 'Film' Category

Easy Virtue

October 29, 2008

Winter just wouldn’t be the same without at least one period drama set in a vast country pile in the inter-war years (see Gosford Park, Atonement, and also this year Brideshead Revisited revisited).

The usual portrait of the crumbling upper class, featuring lashings of guilt and tragedy, has been nudged aside with a knowing wink and saucy pout courtesy of the Noel Coward play Easy Virtue. Stephan Elliott (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) adds an extra helping of naughtiness as co-screenwriter and director.

The owner of the Easy Virtue in question, blonde American bombshell Larita Whittaker (perfectly pitched by Jessica Biel), is a thoroughly modern racing driver who finds herself married into the Whittaker family toxic soup in the run up to Christmas.

No amount of gorgeous wide legged trousers, fur, bias cut silk or red lippy can detract from Mrs Whittaker Snr’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) horror at her son marrying a coarse American who smokes. And so the battle commences.

Colin Firth does his thing as the distracted head of the household, presiding over two wicked sisters (Kimberley Nixon as Hilda is one to watch) and Larita’s beau and heir to the disappearing fortune – John (a forgettable non-performance from Ben Barnes.) 

This film is not as funny as it thinks it is, yet at times mistakenly goes after comedy at the expense of believability. The first two thirds of the film are a hail of unfunny one-liners and over-familiar and informal interaction between the Whittaker family members and their servants. Hang in there and you are rewarded with a few genuine laughs in the final third, but be prepared to put up with some heavy handed clangers and shoddy slapstick first.

The decision to soundtrack the film with Thirties swing renditions of pop hits (such as Carwash, a grating When The Going Gets Tough The Tough Get Going and a unutterably hideous Sexbomb) only further reinforces the misjudged tone.

Finishing with a flourish before the drama of war can cloud the jollities and with only a passing nod to the Depression, Easy Virtue, despite its shortcomings, is the perfect tonic of style and glamour for a chilly, pre-recession era evening. And nothing could be as bad as the drawn out tedium of Brideshead Revisited revisited.

Easy Virtue is on nationwide release from 7 November.

Morgan Spurlock – Osama Bin Laden

April 27, 2008

How did your wife Alex feel about the film?
We were two months into pre-production of Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (released 9 May) when we found out she was pregnant and there was a real hold-the-phone moment – here’s your husband going off traipsing around dangerous places months before you’re about to have a baby. She didn’t like it, but she’s incredibly supportive of me.

Is the world really that much scarier today?
When our parents were raising us, there wasn’t the threat of someone walking into a subway and blowing things up. There’s a different level of danger now. Even in the Cold War, nuclear bombs were ‘over there’.

Are you still on the healthy diet you took up at the end of Super Size Me?
My wife and son are vegan and I’m 66 per cent vegan, as I usually eat two of my meals at home. In the Middle East I ate a lot of street food. I had more mutton than I will ever have in my life. I just ate whatever people had. The key is not to ask a lot of questions.

Does it concern you that your film doesn’t mention oil or examine the Middle East crisis in depth?
You can’t tell every story. We shot 900 hours of footage which we edited down to 90 minutes.

How do you answer criticism that you led people to believe you found Osama bin Laden?
People were asking me: ‘Did you find him? Did you speak to him?’ when we were still editing the movie. My response was: ‘See the film. Wait until we’re done.’ Why would I give away the movie? Were people really that surprised? They were saying: ‘Oh my God. This little film-maker found him.’ I think it’s incredible for people to have that faith, but let’s be realistic.

What about the end of your trip when you get to the tribal area of Pakistan and turn around?
By going in there, was I really going to change that much? I had to make a choice and ultimately I think I made the right one – I came home to be a father.

Were you worried that a film with that title would be an anticlimax?
I don’t think the film is anticlimactic. It shows that Osama bin Laden is everywhere and nowhere. He is this enigma. His influence is in every country that we went to. The film is about showing this myth, this ideology and demystifying this person. In the United States, we get one version of Muslims and Islam on television – a minority of people who scream and yell. You don’t get to hear from the silent majority. We talked to those people on the trip and it was important to give this voice to the voiceless.

How will you bring up your son (now 16 months)?
The biggest thing for me is to expose him to as many people and cultures as possible. You need to be able to experience other people and not live in a box.

This interview first appeared in Observer Review

Oscars Roundup

March 2, 2008

Interview with Carey Mulligan

December 30, 2007

When Carey Mulligan asks, she usually gets. The 22-year-old actress made her first lucky strike, having never been to drama school or university, when she wrote to Julian Fellowes with a request for advice and support. He introduced her to friends who offered her an audition, leading to her role as Kitty in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice at the age of 19. Next came the BBC’s acclaimed adaptation of Bleak House

Landing the role of Nina in the Royal Court’s Seagull this year was another piece of wish-fulfilment. No sooner had she told her boyfriend she would love to play the part than her agent rang. At first, Mulligan thought she had taken on too much: ‘I would come away at the end of every evening in the first week of rehearsals crying. I felt like the smallest, tiniest person in the room’ but it soon became one of the happiest times of her life and garnered glowing reviews.

Mulligan is now rehearsing for a small part in the Jim Sheridan film Brothers and will start on an independent British film in March. Next on the wishlist is a move away from costume drama. ‘I want a gun and a car chase,’ she says with a laugh, although she would make an exception to play Ophelia to Jude Law’s Hamlet in the 2009 Kenneth Branagh production. In true Mulligan style, she has ‘told everyone I know just in case they happen to know Kenneth Branagh’.

This interview first appeared in Observer Review’s New Faces of 2008 piece

Justin Chadwick

December 30, 2007

Photo: Suki Dhanda

Laura Solon – Favourite comedy film

June 17, 2007


Dir: Mel Brooks, 1987
by Laura Solon

‘It’s a spoof of Star Wars and other epic space films. Rick Moranis plays Dark Helmet, in homage to Darth Vader. In my favourite scene he makes the ship go to ludicrous speed but won’t put his seatbelt on, so when they make an emergency stop he flies into a machine and it crushes his helmet. It’s a great visual gag.

I saw it in the cinema when I was about eight and it’s the first film I remember really, really laughing at, and the first time I left the cinema thinking, I wish I was in that film. The best comedy in general is when everyone in it looks like they’re having a good time, and when you finish watching it you wish you were in the gang. It’s not knowing, it’s not really clever and high status. It’s just everyone pissing about on screen.

As I got older I was influenced by Christopher Guest’s films. Best In Show is my favourite. Sideways, and was fantastic too. I really like that kind of offbeat humour. You wouldn’t necessarily sell that story as a comedy, but it has that real subtlety of detail the Americans do so well.

I haven’t worked out the secret of comedy yet, but I think it’s important to surprise people. In terms of my own work, if there was a test to see what people would find funny it would be amazing, but I don’t think you can ever tell. You can only go with your instincts.

This piece first appeared in Observer Review’s Best comic films of all time piece

Martin Freeman – Favourite comedy film

June 17, 2007


Lucy Davis – Favourite comedy film

June 17, 2007


The Jerk
Dir: Carl Reiner, 1979
by Lucy Davis

‘I just loved The Jerk so much as a child. I had an LP of it that I would listen to repeatedly. Steve Martin is so good – it doesn’t matter who else is around him. In everything he does, I can’t take my eyes off him. I love the very end of the film. The idiot Navin has made his millions inventing something ridiculous and then at the very end he loses it all. There’s this big, dramatic, morose sequence when he’s got his trousers round his ankles and he’s walking round the house and down the street and saying: ‘I don’t need anything. I don’t need possessions. I don’t need anything. Oh, except this!’ And then he would pick up something random like a telephone and say: ‘That’s all I need. A telephone, and I don’t need anything else. Oh, except this!’ And he picks up something else random, and by the time he’s walking down the street with his pants round his feet he’s carrying a huge pile of the weirdest things.

Comedy in film is a weird thing. If something’s sold as a comedy, as an audience member you can sit there thinking, OK then, let’s see how funny you think you are. When you’re watching something that isn’t meant to be a comedy and something funny happens, it’s easier to laugh because you’re not expecting it. I had always thought I liked comedies to come out of very real, natural situations like The Office, but I love the sitcom Nighty Night, which isn’t natural, because every moment in there comes from her being truthful.

This interview first appeared in Observer Review’s Best comic films piece

Meera Syal – Favourite comedy film

June 17, 2007


Zoe Wanamaker – Favourite comedy film

June 17, 2007