Based on a true story, this stylishly produced British drama centres around two superbly involving characters whose real-life journey doesn't fit neatly into the usual formula. So the film continually surprises us with little details as it recounts a series of events over the course of about three years. Director Paul McGuigan (Sherlock) and writer Matt Greenhalgh (Nowhere Boy) cleverly keep the tone light with big emotional moments all along the way. And it's also a fascinating look at one of Hollywood's more uncomfortable truths.
It opens in 1981 Liverpool, when Oscar-winning actress Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) collapses while preparing to perform in a play. In need of a place to recuperate, she reaches out to her much younger ex Peter (Jamie Bell), and asks to move in with his parents (Julie Walters and Kenneth Cranham). Seeing Gloria again, Peter takes a trip through his memories of their romance over the previous three years. They met in London when he was an aspiring actor, and he followed her to New York and Los Angeles before their relationship hit the rocks. He always wondered why she dumped him, but now he's starting to understand.
The way the flashbacks are woven into the main narrative is ingenious, as Peter literally walks into the past. This offers some powerful glimpses of the interconnections between them. It's not quite so necessary to eventually cut to Gloria's side of the story, although at least that offers a strikingly emotional final piece to the puzzle. Bening enjoyably makes Gloria a vain diva whose underlying insecurity makes her very likeable. Since she refuses to act her age, the gap between her and Peter never feels like an issue. And Bening develops terrific chemistry with Bell, who brings a beautifully understated rawness to Peter that's strikingly truthful. Bell gives a riveting performance that's never remotely obvious. And it's also terrific to see him reunite with Walters 17 years after Billy Elliot.
Continue reading: Film Stars Don't Die In Liverpool Review
A pitch-black sense of humour provides some strong laughs in this satirical British thriller, but the undercooked script never manages to hold onto our interest. Packed with coincidences and contrivances, the story is just too sloppy, even if there's a provocative point worth making in here somewhere.
At the centre is bicycle cop Baz (Bishop), who patrols southeast London as opportunistic crime is on the rise. At one hot-spot, he corners a looter and, in exasperation, asks for permission to kill him. The guy says yes, and Baz posts a video of the event on the web, disguising himself as an anonymous vigilante hero who's cleaning up the streets. Then things start to get strange. After he rescues a group of trafficked women, one of them (Koleczek) comes home with him, which annoys his bitter mother (Barber). He also befriends an elderly woman (Leach), who leaves him her house when she dies. And her nephew Seth (Doolan) isn't happy about this.
The story is framed by scenes of Seth interrogating Baz in a basement, so we see his vigilante spree in episodic flashback, including his awkward relationship with his partner (Axe), who barely suspects a thing. At least this adds some structure to the randomness of the overall narrative, which pings all over the place without filling in plausible details. But this also makes it impossible for Bishop to build any chemistry with his costars, even though all four main actresses are feisty and engaging. So the film as a whole begins to drag badly, never bringing any sense of focus to the loosely offhanded filmmaking style.
Continue reading: May I Kill U? Review
Although Caine won an Oscar in 1999 for The Cider House Rules, there's a reason you didn't see his follow-up in this movie: because it's total crap. The acting is awful and the story is an insult. Director John Irvin has had better luck with "women's films" like Widow's Peak and A Month By the Lake, but unfortunately his action ends up more like Raw Deal.
Continue reading: Shiner Review
Lest you think I'm joking, consider Greenaway's body of work, which has included plenty of equally perverse nonsense. This time out he's giving us a story -- if you can call it that -- of a doctor whose wife dies in a freak car crash in front of the zoo (think about the title) where his twin brother is researching the aforementioned decaying of dead things. The distraught brothers end up in a love affair with a woman named Alba, who lost one leg in the car accident and later decides to lop off the other one for kicks.
Continue reading: A Zed & Two Noughts Review