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Posts Tagged ‘Gemma Arterton’

Gemma Arterton, Lucas Bond

“SUMMERLAND” My rating: B (Available July 31 on Amazon Prime and various cable/streaming services)

99 minutes | MPAA rating:PG

One of literature’s more enduring themes — that of a misanthrope redeemed by the love of a child (Silas Marner, anyone?) — gets a clever reworking in Jessica Swale’s “Summerland.”

In her quaint cottage on the Dover seashore, Alice (Gemma Arterton) has pretty much managed to avoid the  unpleasantries of the world war taking place on the other side of the channel. A middle-aged recluse regarded by the local kids as some sort of witch (they stuff dirt and sticks into her mail slot), Alice immerses herself in her scholarly study of British folklore. She just wants to be left alone.

So she’s more than a little miffed when told that like many other residents of this rural area, she is expected to take in a child evacuated from London and its nightly air raids. Frank (Lucas Bond) is already traumatized at being separated from his soldier father and government-worker mother; things aren’t improved when Alice gives him a chilly reception and immediately launches an effort with the local schoolmaster (the venerable Tom Courtenay) to have the youngster reassigned to another home.

Swale’s screenplay follows one familiar trajectory, but manages to change things up with a couple of novel twists.

The cranky woman and the innocent child eventually will warm to one another.  This goes without saying.

Frank’s relationship with a another displaced child (Dixie Egerickx) feels fairly predictable as well.

But in a series of flashbacks we see young Alice  having an affair — her only sexual encounter, apparently — with a fellow university student, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Their idyllic flapper-era romance ends when Vera opts for conventional marriage and children over a mixed-race lesbian relationship (which, in  late 1920s Britain, was a far dicier premise than it is today).

This soul-shattering disappointment explains Alice’s intervening years of surly solitude. Having been badly burned, she’s not keen on forming relationships of any depth.  Which makes the presence of curly-haired Frank all the more problematic.

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Gemma Atherton, Bill Nighy

“THEIR FINEST” My rating: B-

117 minutes | MPAA rating: R

What is it with filmmakers making movies about making movies?

“Their Finest,” the latest from Danish director Lone Scherfig (“Italian for Beginners”), takes that admittedly amusing self-absorption and pumps it up with World War II-era nostalgia and nascent female empowerment.

In Blitz-ravaged London, copywriter Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) lands the gig of a lifetime.  She’s hired by the Ministry of Information’s Film Division to write a feature film — one that is both “authentic and optimistic” — that will embody Britain’s can-do spirit in the face of Hitler’s juggernaut.

The film is intended as pan-Atlantic propaganda that will show war-wary American audiences that Britain is more than supercilious aristocrats, that it’s a nation of everyday men and women fighting heroically for survival.

Catrin finds her subject in the real-life experiences of two spinster sisters who stole their drunken uncle’s boat and became part of the mass evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk in France.

Though she already has a significant other (Jack Huston, playing an unsuccessful painter of glum cityscapes), Catrin finds intellectual stimulation (and other sorts as well) in her new writing partner, Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin). He’s one of those seen-everything cynics who nevertheless knows exactly how to manipulate an audience (“Film is real life with the boring stuff cut out”).

Together they figure out how to cajole a fading matinee idol  (Bill Nighy, playing the sort of jaded egomaniac he does so well) into taking the seemingly inconsequential role of the drunken uncle. Somewhat more perplexing is how they are to satisfy the Ministry by creating a character for a non-acting American  (Jake Lacy) who has been flying missions for the R.A.F.

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Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini

Gemma Arterton and Fabrice Luchini

“GEMMA BOVARY” My rating: C+  (Opening June 12 at the Tivoli)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Going in, the logical assumption is that Anne Fontaine’s “Gemma Bovary” is a present-day updating of Flaubert’s classic Madame Bovary (a straight cinematic adaptation opens today at the Cinetopia).

Actually, it’s more complicated and ambitious than that.  Perhaps too ambitious for its own good.

The story is told through the narration of Martin (Fabrice Luchini), the sixty-ish baker in a rural Normandy burg. He tells us that he used to be a literary editor in Paris, but gave it up for an uncomplicated life in the sticks.

Now he’s bored silly.

So he takes special interest when he discovers that his new neighbors, a young English couple, are named Charles and Gemma  Bovary (Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton). Quelle coincidence…the newcomers have almost exactly the same names as Flaubert’s characters.

Fascinated and not a little turned on by his pretty new neighbor, Martin befriends the Bovarys (Charles restores antiques, Gemma is an interior decorator specializing in trompe l’oeil) and begins actively studying (or spying on) them.

When he realizes that Gemma — going a bit stir crazy with rural life — has turned to a young law student (Niels Schneider) for a torrid affair, Martin smells a looming disaster. He moves surreptitiously to nip the illicit romance in the bud.

But good deeds can have unforeseen and disastrous consequences. (more…)

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