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Posts Tagged ‘Emily Mortimer’

Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz

“THE PARTY” My rating: B

71 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With a running of time just over an hour, Sally Potter’s “The Party” plays like a classic one-act play, filled with slamming door exits, fiercely funny wordplay and wonderfully brittle, self-delusional characters.

Potter,  the British creator of films like “Orlando” and “The Tango Lesson,” specializes in gender issues and anti-establishment politics.  “The Party” embraces all that while remaining bitterly hilarious.

In the film’s first shot a frantic looking woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) yanks open her front door, stares momentarily at the visitor on her stoop (the camera takes the vantage point of the guest) and points a pistol at us.

We then flash back 70 minutes.  That same woman, Janet, is busily futzing around the kitchen, preparing to entertain some old friends. Her husband Bill (Timothy Spall) sits in the living room, wine glass in hand, deejaying old blues and experimental jazz LPs. He has the look of a  shell-shocked combat vet.

One by one the visitors arrive and we gradually learn what the celebration is about.  After years of struggle as a party faithful, Janet has been named head of the country’s Ministry of Health. She is constantly interrupted by congratulatory phone calls, including several heavy-breathing text messages from an unidentified lover.

The deliciously catty April (Patricia Clarkson) is allegedly Janet’s best bud. As an American she takes a withering outsider’s view of Brit politics…but then she’s withering on just about every subject. Asked to evaluate if Janet’s new job has transformed her in any way, April observes that her friend now is “slightly ministerial in a post-modernist, post-feminist sort of way.”

She’s even harder on her boyfriend, a blissed-out, New Age-y German life coach named Gottfried (Bruno Ganz) who so adores her that he puts up with a constant stream of abuse. April announces that she intends to dump Gottfried that very night: “Tickle an aroma therapist and you find a fascist.”

 

(more…)

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Charlotte Rampling, Jim Broadbent

“THE SENSE OF AN ENDING” My rating: B

108 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Most of us struggle with some aspect of our pasts.

A relationship that ended badly.  Behavior we regret. Guilt. Loss.

“The Sense of an Ending” is about one man’s attempts to reconcile his present with what came before, and the rationalizations and self-delusions that allow him to finally come to terms.

Ritesh Batra’s film, adapted from Julian Barnes’ award-winning novel by Nick Payne (author of the trippy stage drama “Constellations”), unfolds simultaneously both in the present and nearly a half century earlier.

In the here and now Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) operates a hole-in-the-wall camera shop specializing in antique Leicas. He’s a semi-curmudgeonly divorced man, but he has a civil if mildly confrontational relationship with his ex, Margaret (Harriet Walter), and with their daughter, Susie (Michelle Dockery), a single mother-to-be (Tony accompanies her to birthing classes).

His rather dull life is enlivened by a mystery from his past. Tony receives legal notice that he’s been named a beneficiary in the will of a woman he hasn’t seen in 50 years.

In flashbacks we see how young Tony (Billy Howle) fell for rich girl Veronica (Freya Mavor) and was treated to a long weekend at the home of her family. There he met Veronica’s rather flamboyant (and possibly predatory) mother, Sarah (Emily Mortimer).

Anyway, Tony broke up with Veronica, who rebounded by starting up with Tony’s friend and classmate Adrian (Joe Alwyn).  Not long into that relationship the sensitive Adrian mysteriously killed himself.

It is Adrian’s diary which the late Sarah has bequeathed to Tony.  Why did she cling for decades to the journal of her daughter’s dead boyfriend?

And why is her daughter Veronica (played as an adult by the sublime Charlotte Rampling) unwilling to turn over Adrian’s diary despite the threat of legal action?

Goodness. What bombshells might reside on its pages? (more…)

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“OUR IDIOT BROTHER” My rating: C- (Opening wide Aug. 26)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The only person likely to win any awards for “Our Idiot Brother” is the anonymous editor who cut the trailer. This unsung hero took an aggressively unfunny comedy and so effectively manipulated bits and pieces as to evoke potential ticket buyers’ memories of other, much funnier Paul Rudd films like “I Love You Man.”

But make no mistake, this is bottom-drawer stuff that, by all rights, should have shuffled straight off to home video.

And what makes it even more discombobulating is that “Brother” wastes a slew of good comic actors.

Ned (Rudd) may not be precisely an idiot, but he’s slow enough on the uptake to be in perennial trouble. Also he cannot lie. When a cop in uniform asks him for some weed, Ned takes pity on the poor flatfoot and sells him some. Result: Prison.

Newly out, Ned is passed back and forth among his three sisters. His childlike pechant for honesty gets him in one scrape after another.

Sister Liz (Emily Mortimer) doesn’t appreciate it when Ned reveals that her filmmaker husband (Steve Coogan in typical supercilious mode) is having an affair with the ballerina who is the subject of his latest documentary.

Sister Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), a magazine journalist, tries to use a source’s off-the-record comments in her latest piece. Ned calls her on it.

And Sister Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), in a relationship with another woman (Rashida Jones), doesn’t appreciate Ned letting it slip that she’s pregnant by an artist friend.

The best that can be said for this film from director Jesse Peretz and writers David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz is that the hirsute Rudd (he looks like a very happy Jesus) exudes a sweetness that helps make up (though not nearly enough) for the script’s lack of cleverness and wit.

I mean, didn’t anybody read the screenplay?

| Robert W. Butler


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