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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel West’

Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howe

“ON CHESIL BEACH” My rating: C+ 

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

No film with Saoirse Ronan can be easily dismissed. Nonetheless, many will find “On Chesil Beach” a long haul.

Directed by Dominic Cooke and adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2007 novel, this is a story of lost love.  More specifically, it’s about two young people utterly unprepared for the intimacies of married life who are driven apart by sexual dysfunction.

That may sound intriguing…and on the printed page it was.  The problem is that McEwan’s novel is a deep psychological study of two individuals, and deep psychology is not one of the things the movies do particularly well.

We can see the outside, but we’re not privy to what’s happening on the inside. And despite McEwan’s use of extensive flashbacks to depict the young lovers’ courtship and backgrounds, the whole enterprise feels like it’s unfolding at an emotional arm’s length.

Florence (Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) check into a seaside hotel for their honeymoon. They’re nervous…this is the big night, after all.  The time is the early ’60s and these two virgins are both eager and terrified.

In a series of flashbacks we see how they met and fell in love.

Edward is working class, a bit impetuous and keyed into the burgeoning pop culture of the day. His family history is far from storybook; his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) suffered a head injury when struck by a train and now devotes herself to making art in the nude.

Florence’s background is a pure 180 from Edward’s. She comes from the upper crust, plays violin in a string quartet, and married Edward despite the disdain of her snooty/pompous parents (Emily Watson, Samuel West).

He thinks Chuck Berry is awesome.  She thinks Chuck Berry is “quite, well, merry.” (That early exchange, initially amusing, carries grim portents for the couple’s compatibility.)

(more…)

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Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill

“DARKEST HOUR”  My rating: B

A confession.

I’ve often found Gary Oldman  a shameless scenery chewer. Villainous roles were especially problematic; you could actually see Oldman twirling his mustache, metaphorically speaking.

2011’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” gave us a more settled, thoughtful Goldman, who portrayed John LeCarre’s good gray spookmaster George Smiley with an admirable degree of restraint.

Now, in  “Darkest Hour,” Goldman tackles the iconic role of Winston Churchill, and it’s a match made in heaven.  Sir Winston was, after all, no slouch at scenery chewing; yet Oldman’s performance here is subtle and balanced, a deft blend of  bombast and inner activity.

It’s a performance of such insight and power — abetted by David Malinowski’s spectacularly effective makeup design — that it immediately propels Goldman into the front ranks of this year’s Oscar contenders.

Joe Wright’s film centers on one month, May of 1940, when the long-out-of-favor Churchill was elected Prime Minister after the collapse of Neville Chamberlain’s ineffectual government.

The P.M. is faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. The Nazis have taken over much of Europe and are pounding the British army at Dunkirk. If those 300,000 or so soldiers are captured or killed, it will leave Great Britain defenseless.

Voices within his own party are urging Churchill to sue Hitler for peace. It’s the only way to escape a bloodbath and an armed invasion.

Churchill doubts that Der Fuhrer is in any mood to grant concessions. If only he can save the troops waiting on the French coast, galvanize public opinion, and overnight turn his country’s prevailing ethos from dovish to hawkish. (more…)

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