Patrick Marber

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Notes on a Scandal Review


Excellent
If you don't already worship at the Church of Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal may be the film that causes your conversion. Dame Judi tears into the meaty role of secretive spinster teacher Barbara Covett with relish. You won't soon forget the look on her shriveled face as she commits outrageous acts of emotional blackmail.

Narrated by Barbara from her own diary entries, what we have here is a classic case of a very unreliable narrator, but one with a quick wit. As the new term begins at a bustling lower-class middle school, history teacher Barbara, who is utterly burned out and simply going through the motions (she calls education "crowd control"), is beguiled by the new art teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a 37-year-old upper-class beauty who really believes in teaching.

Continue reading: Notes on a Scandal Review

Notes on a Scandal Review


Excellent
If you don't already worship at the Church of Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal may be the film that causes your conversion. Dame Judi tears into the meaty role of secretive spinster teacher Barbara Covett with relish. You won't soon forget the look on her shriveled face as she commits outrageous acts of emotional blackmail.

Narrated by Barbara from her own diary entries, what we have here is a classic case of a very unreliable narrator, but one with a quick wit. As the new term begins at a bustling lower-class middle school, history teacher Barbara, who is utterly burned out and simply going through the motions (she calls education "crowd control"), is beguiled by the new art teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), a 37-year-old upper-class beauty who really believes in teaching.

Continue reading: Notes on a Scandal Review

Asylum Review


OK
As cool and chiseled as star Natasha Richardson's face, Asylum (based on a novel by Patrick McGrath) is set for the most part at a high-security insane asylum in northern England in 1959. Richardson plays Stella Raphael, whose husband Max (Hugh Bonneville) has been made deputy superintendent at the hospital, meaning a long spell among the mad and their repressed warders for Stella and their son Charlie (Gus Lewis). At the best of times, Stella seems like she'd have difficulty fitting in, but with her aloof and depressed air, cigarette held high in one hand, martini in the other, she seems downright ogre-ish to the provincial locals. Stella smokes at her kitchen table, asking the maid, "How did my predecessor fill her time?" Consumed with work, Max is hardly any help, and even Charlie doesn't seem able to keep Stella's attention.

At least there's a handsome mental patient who's allowed to work in the grounds near the Raphael's house, giving Stella reason to get up in the morning. For those not as terminally depressed as Stella, it would seem a negative that Edgar Stark (Marton Csokas) had been put in the asylum for butchering his wife; but hey, a girl's got to keep busy. Director David Mackenzie (Young Adam) and screenwriter Patrick Marber (Closer) don't waste much of the audience's time before bringing Edgar and Stella together in a brutal coupling in a half-ruined greenhouse that shows, in one simple and uninterrupted shot, more heated passion than a half-dozen other films' frantic editing and sensuous lighting could manage. The heated connection between the two is so believable that all the events which follow from their affair - including, but not limited to, Edgar's escape - and the depths of darkness into which nearly all the characters are plunged, seem nothing less than utterly inevitable.

Continue reading: Asylum Review

Closer Review


Terrible
Love and romance are tough stuff. Leave it to Mike Nichols and his adaptation of the callous play Closer to make it even tougher.

The setup holds promise: Four characters in dreary London couple and de-couple, falling in and out of relationships over a four year span. The story is told piecemeal, as it focuses on brief events in the couples' lives, separated by months or years. It begins as American stripper Alice (Natalie Portman) meets British obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) by happenstance. A year later, Dan encounters photographer Anna (Julia Roberts), whom he immediately begins to lust after. Later, Dan plays an internet prank on dermatologist Larry (Clive Owen), which unexpectedly sends him into the arms of Anna. They marry, and Anna promptly starts an affair with Dan. Dan confesses to Alice, she becomes a stripper again. Anna confesses to Larry, and she leaves him, sending Dan to Alice for the first time. And round and round we go until everyone's had a shot at everyone else.

Continue reading: Closer Review

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