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Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Manville’

Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw

“MISBEHAVIOUR” My rating: B- (Available Sept. 25 on Video on Demand)

106 minutes | No MPAA rating

It’s got a killer cast and a stirring inspired-by-headlines story to tell.

Yet Philippa Lowthorpe’s “Misbehaviour” only really kicks in during the closing credits, when through archival photos we get the stories of what happened to its real-life characters “after” the movie ends.

The subject here is the Miss World beauty pageant of 1970, when a staid institution was knocked on its ear by a rising tide of feminism and Third World influences.

Rebecca Frayne’s screenplay begins with Sally Alexander (Keira Knightley), a British mother and graduate student, being sucked into the world of “radical” feminism through her unexpected friendship with Jo Robinson (Jessie Buckley), a gleeful vandal who specializes in spray-paint sloganeering.

Despite her initial misgivings, her traditionalist mother (“Downton Abbey’s” Phyllis Logan) and her own responsibilities as a mom, Sally becomes a convert to the cause.  It helps that she’s had humiliating  run-ins with male-centric academia. Before long the other women are regarding her as a leader.

Sally, Jo and their comrades decide to disrupt the Miss World competition, a London-based event much beloved by the British public.

One of “Misbehaviour’s” many plot threads (“Mis-Behaviour” as in “Miss World”…get it?) centers on the married couple Eric and Julia Morley (Rhys Ifans and Keeley Hawes), operators of the pageant.  He’s a guy who dispassionately analyzes a young woman’s physical attributes like a health inspector examining a side of beef; she’s a bit more attuned to the needs of modern women, but still committed to the family business.

Another plot involves the famous Hollywood  comedian Bob Hope (Greg Kinnear with convincing fake nose and a not-very-convincing impersonation), who is hired as this year’s emcee.  He is accompanied to his country of birth by his wife Dolores (Lesley Manville), who wearily tolerates his rampant philandering.

And then there are the contestants.  1970 was a memorable year for the pageant, and not only because of the feminist shenanigans that turned the live TV broadcast into a chaotic fiasco.

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Liam Neeson, Leslie Manville

“ORDINARY LOVE” My rating: B+

92 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In an era of caped escapism, an intimate cancer drama like “Ordinary Love” has about as much chance as a penguin in the shark pool.

But those daring enough to take the risk will discover an acting tour de force saturated in pain and beauty, a drama that effectively tells a universal story precisely because its characters are largely unremarkable.

The challenge facing writer Owen McCafferty, directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn and their principal players (Liam Neeson and Leslie Manville) is to make their yarn compelling without resorting to heroics, histrionics or bigger-than-life characterizations.

They succeed to a degree I didn’t think possible.

Tom and Joan (Neeson, Manville) are a retired couple living in Belfast (we never do learn anything about their careers). At first glance their marriage seems more or less ideal. He’s charmingly irascible, a guy who goes for long walks with the Missus, then claims that entitles him to one more beer.

She’s no shrinking violet, apparently relishing the banter that has them dueling with gentle witticisms.

They’ve got a nice house and apparently no money woes. Their mantel feature a framed photo of a pretty young woman, obviously their daughter.  Only much later do we realize that the subject, their only child, died some years before.

The unremarkable patterns of Tom and Joan’s life are upended when she discovers a lump in her breast.

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Daniel Day-Lewis

“PHANTOM THREAD” My rating: B 

130 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Phantom Thread” is an exquisite love story.

“Phantom Thread” is a cynical black comedy.

That both of these statements are accurate suggests the complex mix of ideas, emotions and impulses percolating through Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film.

That “Phantom Thread” also features what is allegedly Daniel Day-Lewis final screen performance (he and Anderson collaborated earlier on “There Will Be Blood”) makes it a must-see event.

Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is the premiere dress designer in ’50s London. He caters to the rich and titled; his fashions are elegant and controversy-free.

His effete manner and rep as a lifelong bachelor might suggest to some that the graying Reynolds is gay, but they’d be wrong. Reynolds enjoys women on the physical level.  In fact, as the film begins he indicates over breakfast to  his sister-collaborator-facilitator  Cyril (Leslie Manville) that his current paramour has worn out her welcome.

It falls to Cyril to deliver the bad news and escort the rejected young woman from the premises; a great artist like Reynolds cannot be bothered with such mundane duties.

“Marriage would make me deceitful,” he says, as if using and discarding women somehow makes him honest.

Anderson’s screenplay follows Reynolds on a side trip to his family’s seaside cottage.  At a local tearoom he encounters  Alma (Vicky Krieps), an Eastern European immigrant waiting tables. She’s a woman with a real physical presence, not one of those wraithlike models he’s used to dealing with, and she knows nothing about Reynolds or his work.

Her lack of guile, non-glamorous appearance and forthright emotional bearing appeal hugely to the jaded dress designer. He brings her to London, installs her in his household, looks to her as his creative muse  and, finally, marries her: “I feel like I’ve been looking for your for a very long time.” (more…)

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