BRIDESHEAD REVISITED * * *
Cert 12A 133 mins
Although it’s now 27 years since the original Granada TV series, regular DVD reissues have ensured Charles Sturridge’s adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 masterpiece has remained as well loved a national treasure as when first transmitted.
As such, Julian Jarrold’s retelling is inevitably on a hiding to nothing when comparisons are being made. Especially since the same location, Castle Howard, was used for the titular manse on both occasions. However, it’s on its rendition of the Waugh source material that the film should really be judged. Unfortunately, given some of the liberties taken with the narrative, purists are unlikely to be too forgiving.
The plot, for those who need reminder, revolves around Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode), a middle class Londoner with a disinterested father (a deliciously droll Patrick Malahide) who, on arrival at Oxford, is taken up by troubled, heavy drinking, teddy-bear hugging homosexual aristocrat Sebastian Flyte (Ben Wishaw).
Their friendship is bolstered when Ryder’s taken to see Brideshead and is entranced by the world of ancestral grandeur to which he aspires, only to be fractured when the sexual tension between Charles and Sebastian’s sister Julia (Hayley Atwell) finally explodes in a passionately hungry kiss.
Rejected by a hurt Sebastian who retreats to a self-exile of drink and opium dens in Morocco, Charles is also denied Julia’s love when her ultra-devout Catholic mother, Lady Marchmain (Emma Thompson), insists she marries within her faith and class.
A meditation on the decline of the British aristocracy, as a converted Catholic. Waugh’s novel is also very much concerned with the redemptive power of faith; in the death of the siblings’ estranged father, Lord Marchmain (Michael Gambon), and the peace found by his children in bowing to God’s will.
At the end, returned to a Brideshead that’s been requisitioned by the army, even the atheist Ryder appears to have embraced Catholicism.
Not so here as Andrew Davies and Jeremy Brock’s condensed screenplay feels more like an anti-Catholic tract demonstrating, through the destruction wrought by a suffocatingly unbending Lady Marchmain on both her family and her own relationship with her children, the dangers of religious fundamentalism.
Likewise the book’s complex love triangle has been diluted, toning down Charles’ gay proclivities (just one slight kiss), making his torrid doomed affair with Julia the prime reason behind Sebastian’s breakdown and being more explicit in regard to his social climbing ambitions. .
That said, the film does work on its own terms as a middlebrow period melodrama. It’s a little slow to get into gear, but once the plot motor warms up, while falling considerably short of Atonement standards, it’s undeniably rewarding viewing.
It goes without saying that, with vistas of Castle Howard and Venice alike, it looks terrific while the central performances are top drawer, Whishaw mesmerising as the emotionally and psychologically disintegrating Sebastian while Thompson succeeds in ultimately making the patrician Lady Marchmain no less a tragic figure than her son.
Brideshead Reimagined rather than Revisited, perhaps but still worth a tour round the grounds.
88 MINUTES *
Cert 15 107 mins
That this supposedly real time thriller is actually 20 minutes longer than its title pretty much sums up the muddled mess that marks Al Pacino’s worst film – not to say worst hairstyle – since Revolution. Understandably shelved for two years, having ignominiously gone straight to DVD in some countries it finally limped out to a storm of savage American reviews earlier this year.
Arriving here on the back of the dismal Righteous Kill (not coincidentally also directed by style-challenged hack Jon Avnet), it’s enough to make Pacino devotees cancel their fan club membership.
He plays Jack Gramm, a smug FBI forensic psychologist who made his name putting serial killer Jon Forster (Neal McDonough) behind bars. However, just as Forster’s execution date looms, so there’s a series of copycat killings that cast doubt on the conviction and Gramm’s testimony.
He’s convinced the new murders are being orchestrated by Forster, but, sexually or professionally linked to the female victims, finds himself in the frame as a prime suspect. On top of which. he’s received an anonymous call telling him he’s only got 88 minutes to live, a call that would appear to originate from among his close circle of associates and students.
With further messages counting down the minutes, you’d expect Gramm to show at least some urgency in tracking down the caller/killer, but instead the pacing is like wading through treacle and about as suspenseful as you’d expect from a film that largely involves making phone calls.
The screenplay duly throws in a shoal of red herrings and suspicious characters, only for Avnet’s ham-fisted direction and some lousy editing to give the game away with virtually still an hour to go, leaving you to stare in disbelief at Pacino’s phoned in career low performance and the fact that, in that tache and beard, he looks scarily just like Adam Sandler in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan.
HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND
ALIENATE PEOPLE * * *
Cert 15 110 mins
In British journalist Toby Young’s memoir of the same name, the failed Vanity Fair writer recalls how, when assigned to interview Nathan Lane, he first asked him if he were Jewish, and then if he were gay. The interview was cut short. It’s very funny on the page. Slightly less so when translated to the screen in Robert Weide’s adaptation of Young’s account of his nine months of gaffes, faux pas and general foot in mouth disasters covering the New York celebrity circuit.
And that’s largely true about everything in the film which cherry picks from Young’s true hilarious anecdotes and sprinkles them across what’s basically a cross between The Devil Wears Prada’s all that glitters fable and The Apartment’s corporate satire cum love story, right down to a reference to the executive washroom and Margoyles’ ethnic landlady substituting for CC Baxter’s neighbour, Dr Dreyfuss.
Having gatecrashed and ruined a post BAFTA awards party, hack Sidney Young (Simon Pegg) gets a call from Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges), editor-in-chief of the prestigious Sharps magazine, who, reminded of his own maverick days, wants him to come work for him.
Arriving in New York thinking he’s got it made and is going to shake up Manhattan with his acid celeb-deflating wit, Sidney instead finds himself barely on the bottom rung, the new boy in, as Harding puts it, the first of the seven rooms he has to find the doors to before he’s arrived.
And his section boss, the oleaginous Maddox (Danny Huston), isn’t about to make the passage easy.
Young sets his sights on rising bimbo starlet Sophie Maes (Megan Fox), the latest protégé of influential publicist Eleanor Johnson (a dryly excellent Gillian Anderson), eventually willing to sell himself out for success while being naturally oblivious to the fact love-troubled colleague Alison (Kirsten Dunst) is developing affections for him. Things go horribly wrong, then things go horribly right, then Sidney realises that’s not what he really wants after all.
There’s flashes of hilarity but, at the end of the day it’s a middling fish out of water comedy and blunt-edged media satire that settles for cheap gags (oh look, Sidney’s picked up a transsexual) and never fizzes as it should, while a half-hearted stab at poignancy involving Sidney’s relationship with his philosopher father (Bill Patterson) is dispensed with almost as soon as it’s introduced.
Despite recycling the arc of his Run Fatboy Run character, Pegg’s got sufficient likeablity to make Sidney an annoyingly exasperating idiot rather than simply objectionable but, in his first starring Hollywood role, he’s patently out of his depth when measured against the effortlessness of co-stars Bridges and Huston.
However, if Dunst is dull in a drab role, Fox turns out to be a revelation, not only proving she can actually act but, in the fake trailers for her role in Teresa The Making Of A Saint, provides the film’s biggest laughs.
FLY ME TO THE MOON 3D * *
Cert PG 84 mins
Last month it was chimps in space, this time its flies. The first CGI animation made exclusively for 3D presentation, technically this has some impressive moments in its depth of field and rendition of detail.
Its story about three young flies who stow away on Apollo 11 and join Armstrong and Aldrin for that 1969 moon walk is another matter entirely.
With characters recycled from the Chipmunks (adventurous one, brainy one, fat one), a no name voice cast (Christopher Lloyd’s the only ‘star’ as Grandpa fly), unimaginative screenplay and Cold-War subplot padding that will go over the heads of the primary school audience, it’s unlikely to generate much of a buzz.
To crown it all, the real Buzz Aldrin ambles on for the end credits just to assure you that there were no diptera contaminants on Apollo 11 at all.
Yup, that dull,