Talking Movies

September 18, 2012

Any Other Business: Part IV

What is one to do with  thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a  proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into  a fourth  portmanteau post on television of course!

Thomas  Dekker Needs to Graduate

Thomas Dekker  desperately needs to graduate high school. It’s becoming a  problem.  In case you  can’t quite place the youthful looking actor, here’s a refresher. He  played the camcorder-wielding confidant  of invincible cheerleader Hayden  Panettiere’s Claire Bennett in season  1 of Heroes. He then took  on the role  of a teenage John Connor under the daunting protection of Lena Headey’s Sarah  Connor and  Summer Glau’s good terminator in The Sarah  Connor Chronicles. When that was unjustly  cancelled he finally managed a sojourn in college in  Gregg Araki’s typically eccentric Kaboom! But then came a return  to high school in The  Secret Circle, which has been mercifully cancelled after one  misfiring season during which it never threatened to equal let alone eclipse its  sister show The  Vampire Diaries. Dekker was actually  pretty good as a warlock in The  Secret Circle but his resume kept  intruding into your subconscious and wrecking his plausibility as a high school  student, even by the usual ridiculous Hollywood conventions. To reiterate, Thomas Dekker was in  high school on TV in 2006. He was still in high school on TV in 2012… Thomas Dekker Needs to  Graduate!

Quirky  McQuirke

I’m not sure exactly when it  happened but the three episodes of  90 minutes duration each format now seems to be BBC One’s preferred mode for  prestige crime shows, as, following in the wake  of Wallander and the  all-conquering Sherlock, John Banville’s  acclaimed Benjamin Black detective novels are being brought to the small screen with  Gabriel  Byrne cast as the titular Quirke. Quirke, the chief pathologist  in the Dublin city morgue, starts investigating  deaths in 1950s Dublin – in Banville’s imagining a place of smoky streets, damp  alleys, bars with peat  fires, and  Georgian houses with sexual tension. Each  episode sees Quirke investigate the death  of an unfortunate on his mortuary slab. Bleak  House  screenwriter Andrew Davies will adapt ‘Christine Falls’ and ‘The Silver Swan,’ while The  Seafarer  playwright Conor McPherson tackles ‘Elegy for April.’ I haven’t read any of  the Benjamin Black novels for two reasons. I find the patronising adoption of a  pseudonym to write mere thrillers to epitomise the Nietzschean snobbery that  characterised Banville’s dismissal of last year’s Booker jury, and I heartily  dislike the  novels he has written under his own name that I had to suffer thru at college.  I’ll watch the show with interest though because Davies is a great screenwriter  and I’ve come to appreciate McPherson more than I once did after teaching The  Weir and  having students enjoy its ambiguities immensely.

April 23, 2012

Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close realises a lifetime’s ambition and finally turns her one-woman off-Broadway show based on George Moore’s novella into a feature film.

Close plays Albert Nobbs, a conscientious but taciturn waiter at the Morrison Hotel in Dublin in the year, well, oddly it’s never really specified, just sometime after 1898. Albert’s great secret is that he is really a woman. This is the moment at which suspension of disbelief needs a crane because the make-up job just makes Close look a bit odd, not like a man. The accent is a cannier choice, a soft London accent that doesn’t draw attention to the lightness of its timbre. But if ever a film was based around a make-up job it’s this movie, and the over-worked crane for suspending disbelief quite simply buckles early on when there is a shocking revelation that another male character is also a woman in disguise; a shock that is only if you haven’t immediately thought on seeing the character that it’s a woman.

John Banville co-wrote the script with Close and Gabriella Prekop and perhaps that’s the reason for the lack of driving plot. Nobbs is encouraged by her confidante Janet McTeer, who has set up house with Bronagh Gallagher, to use her substantial savings to open her own tobacconist’s shop. At this point Nobbs begins to think of enticing fellow Morrison servant Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska) to join her in the enterprise, oblivious to the fact that Helen is only walking out with her to scrounge money for the fare to America. That plan is the brainchild of roguish Joe (Aaron Johnson), who via some delightful percussive maintenance on the Morrison’s misbehaving boiler has insinuated himself into the staff and then between Helen’s sheets. If that sounds half-interesting beware, this film’s deadly dull and never resolves the contradiction between its Shakespearean-obvious cross-dressing and its otherwise realistic universe.

Director Rodrigo Garcia coaxes good performances from his cast but McTeer, Johnson and Wasikowska come undone by virtue of their ropey accents far too frequently; even though McTeer outshines Close by virtue of having a more assertive character. I don’t know why Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is in the film as a debauched Wildean lord, except to pinpoint the class-based moral hypocrisy of Pauline Collins’ hotel owner, but such lack of purpose or context is everywhere. Are McTeer and Gallagher a lesbian couple or not? Does Nobbs think Helen will live with her as a companion or as a lover? These vital questions are never clearly answered until it’s far too late. Even more baffling is the politically de-contextualised Dublin setting. Why not just set it in London and eliminate the ropey accents, if not the unbelievable cross-dressing disguises?

If you really want to see Close on great form in a late career sparkler I suggest you look at a DVD box-set of Damages.

2/5

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