Talking Movies

June 30, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XL

As the title suggests, so forth.

Tom Cruise is America, or something

I’d been thinking about this for a while, but was finally spurred into action by Megan Garber’s recent Atlantic piece on Top Gun as infomercial for nothing less than the US of A itself. She’s absolutely right. Top Gun exudes Reagan’s America even more purely than Stallone asking in Rambo: First Blood – Part II whether America gets to win Vietnam this time. (Yes, Rambo, of course.) But whither Reagan’s America now? And so to the once boyish now aged Cruiser… It occurred to me when recently watching it on TV that Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is almost a stand-in for America, maybe even Joe Biden, now. He knows that he is not physically on top of this, but his instincts remain true, and his resolve undimmed though tinged with desperation. The repeated insistence by Cruise that he will find a way, make it work, figure it out – I won’t let you down! almost seems to reflect the figure America currently cuts on the world stage. Hapless, diminished, but bloody determined to live up to its own heroic self-image.

Movie musicals are too long

I was thinking about why I haven’t loved so many of the great filmed Broadway musicals as much as I ‘should’, given that I love musicals onscreen and onstage, and then it hit me. They are too long. It could really be that simple. En masse. And they are too long because… they are too long. To be less simple. Finally watching South Pacific last year I got more out of it than most filmed Broadway musicals hitherto because I gave myself an interval. I paused the movie, made some tea, mooched about the place, reflected on what had happened so far and wondered where things might go next. As one does at an interval in a Broadway musical. I haven’t really tried this out to the extent that I can pronounce a definitive verdict on this theory, but I do think it explains why the likes of West Side Story and My Fair Lady never really seemed to connect with me the way shorter musicals like Kiss Me Kate and The Rocky Horror Picture Show did.

May 5, 2018

From the Archives: Son of Rambow

Another dive into the pre-Talking Movies archives turns up a neglected British comedy whose child stars went on to interesting careers while its director waited nearly a decade for Sing.

Garth Jennings, director of the flawed but fun Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film, fulfils his obvious potential with a very funny and charming slice of 1980s nostalgia. Directed from his own script, which he was working on prior to Hitchhiker’s, this is very obviously a deeply personal project. Fantastic young lead actor Bill Milner (think a less annoying Freddie Highmore…) plays Will, a shy child who lives with his widowed religious mother and has little contact with the rough side of life…until a detention-worthy encounter in the school corridor with Carter, whose introduction is a visual triumph. Will Poulter is fantastic as Lee Carter, the coolest kid in school. Every school had one of these, a bad boy with a heart of gold…maybe. But not every school had one who got up to such demented antics involving flying plastic dogs…

It’s a great pity that this film is being released after the similarly themed Be Kind Rewind as this is far, far funnier. Jennings’ staging of the boys’ production of insane home movie Son of Rambow is just inspired, with endless quirky and inventive stunts. The warmth of the script has attracted a nice supporting cast of British actors including comedy legend Eric Sykes. Spaced star Jessica Stevenson stands out in an unusually dramatic turn as Will’s mother, a leading member of the Plymouth Brethren who disavow music, films and television. Will thus has to sit outside while TV documentaries are shown in class, which leads to a wonderful running gag, and also his fateful encounter with Carter.

Featuring the coolest New Romantic French exchange student of all time among other joys this does occasionally dip into cliché with its ‘touching’ message about childhood friendship and the liberating joy of cinema. But it’s all done with such obvious affection for the perils of watching Rambo at too young an age that it can be forgiven its faults. Son of Rambow is reminiscent of Grosse Pointe Blank in being a film so warm-hearted and fun that it can make you nostalgic for a 1980s adolescence you never even had.

4/5

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