With a story that links together every cliche from the weepy chick-flick library, this movie uses its doomed romance premise to reduce every woman in the audience into floods of tears. Adapted by author Jojo Moyes from her bestselling novel, the movie will work its trickery on its target audience, and it will just about keep others interested, thanks to engaging central performances by Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.
It's set in a picture-perfect British village located next to the ruins of a picturesque castle, where the quirky Louisa (Clarke) has just lost her job as a waitress in a tearoom. But her parents (Brendan Coyle and Samantha Spiro) need her income to make ends meet, so she takes a job with the village's most prominent couple (Janet McTeer and Charles Dance), caring for their son Will (Claflin), who was a high-flying banker until he was hit by a motorbike and paralysed. Working alongside Will's nurse Nathan (Stephen Peacocke), Louisa struggles to connect with the relentlessly surly Will, who believes that there's no point with going on with his life. But Louisa is determined to help him find some hope.
Everything that happens on the way to the unnerving conclusion is deeply predictable, because we've seen it all in movies from Bridget Jones to The Fault in Our Stars. Even the gently wacky romance feels oddly by-the-book, shifting from interested sideways glances to another smiley montage sequence to contrived comedy and gloomy drama. Thankfully, Clarke and Claflin breathe life into these characters, adding personality details and a spark of chemistry that helps the audience feel the connection developing between Louisa and Will. Of the supporting cast, only Peacocke manages to give his character a sense that he has a life off the screen. And it's nice to see Downton Abbey's Coyle against type.
Continue reading: Me Before You Review
Based on real events a century ago that still resonate loudly today, this movie takes a cleverly fictionalised angle to explore the suffrage movement, a story that astonishingly has never been put on film before. Screenwriter Abi Morgan's script brings intelligence and honesty to the characters, avoiding cliches to make the political statements as fresh and important today as they were back then. And it's anchored by another solid performance from Carey Mulligan.
She plays Maud, a young woman in 1912 London who has grown up working in a grim laundry, which is where she met her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw). Then her best friend Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) introduces her to the women's voting rights movement led by Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). And Maud is intrigued, joining with her local chemist's wife Edith (Helena Bonham Carter) for protests and getting involved in civil disobedience. This puts her on the list of offenders followed by a tenacious policeman (Brendan Gleeson), and Sonny finds it very difficult to cope with the embarrassment. So Maud has to make a very tough decision about whether to carry on the fight.
Making the film's main characters working-class heroines was a clever way to draw in modern-day audiences. In real life, the suffragettes were middle-class women who didn't particularly want any of the working class (men or women) to have the vote. But of course, once the movement started, it didn't end there, ultimately extending right through society. And the film cleverly mixes these fictional characters alongside real historical figures to bring the events vividly to life. Mulligan provides the emotional gut punch as an intelligent but uneducated woman who has been abused all her life and is finally standing up for herself. Her scenes with each of the supporting cast have real power, including less sympathetic characters like Whishaw's loving but fearful husband.
Continue reading: Suffragette Review
This true story only barely avoids becoming sloppily sentimental, thanks to a solid cast and a final act that generates honest emotion. Awash with the Disney spirit, the film breaks free of the marketing machine to recount events that are lively and often very funny, but also manage to be sharply moving. It's the kind of crowd-pleaser that deserves to do well both at the box office and in awards ceremonies.
Set in 1961, it's the story of how Walt Disney (Hanks) finally lures PL Travers (Thompson) to Hollywood to woo her into signing over the film rights to Mary Poppins after some 20 years of pestering. She is equally determined to protect her creation, which is very close to her heart. But she agrees to work with the screenwriter (Whitford) and composers (Schwartzman and Novak) as long as she has veto power. Her demands are crazy ("I don't want the colour red anywhere in the movie!"), but everyone tries to win her over. Eventually Walt realises that he needs to find out exactly why Mary Poppins is so important to her. And that the story is more about Mary's affect on the family's father, Mr Banks, than the children.
Indeed, in parallel flashbacks we see Travers' childhood in rural 1906 Australia, where she lives as a young girl (Buckley) with her lively father (Farrell) and shattered mother (Wilson). Her dad's alcoholism is the driving force of these scenes, which feel like a completely separate film intercut with sunny 1960s Hollywood. But they add weight to Thompson's remarkably detailed performance, which is marvellously withering and hilarious, and also subtly emotional. Her interaction with the buoyant Hanks is sharp and jagged, and the film's nicest scenes are between Travers and her driver, sensitively played by Giamatti.
Continue reading: Saving Mr. Banks Review
After being orphaned as a child, Jane (Clarkson) is sent by her selfish aunt (Hawkins) to a grisly boarding school where she's falsely scorned as a liar.
When she leaves at age 18 (now Wasikowska), she works as a governess for the ward (Moore) of the mercurial Rochester (Fassbender), finding friendship with the housekeeper (Dench) and, surprisingly, romance with Rochester. Alas, this doesn't go well, and when she flees she finds solace with rural parson Rivers (Bell) and his sisters (Grainger and Merchant). Surely she deserves some good news.
Continue reading: Jane Eyre Review
Familiarity with Auburn's stage presentation may breed contempt for this version, which feels distinctly off-kilter from its first frames. Mysteries that held water longer in the theater instead land like Doc Marten's on a flimsy piece of plywood here. Director John Madden samples a chatty, analytical approach to his literal translation but gets swept up in stagy, awkward, and all-too-deliberate line readings. Much like last year's ill-conceived Phantom of the Opera, this movie has few cinematic qualities that elevate it above a tedious and emotionless play rehearsal shot on location.
Continue reading: Proof (2005) Review
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