Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Critical Week: Beaten not broken

I was unable to catch Bleed for This at the London Film Festival, so I was glad there was a press screening this week. Miles Teller is impressively beefed-up for this role as comeback boxer Vinny Pazienza in this inspiring true story, although the film isn't terrible complex. A much more anticipated film offering was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which returns to JK Rowling's wizarding world some 70 years before Harry Potter's birth. The film is funny and adventurous but difficult to engage with due to its odd plotting and thinly written characters.

I also caught up with some quality films worthy of awards consideration: Ewan McGregor stars in and makes his impressive directing debut with the complex drama American Pastoral, a stripped-down adaptation of the classic Philip Roth novel; Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga are terrific in Loving, Jeff Nichols' minimalistic take on a real-life landmark civil rights case; and Warren Beatty is a lot of fun as Howard Hughes in his film Rules Don't Apply, which also contains a nice love story fighting for our attention.

There were two from South America: Pablo Larrain's Neruda is a fiercely inventive, wryly comical biopic about the Chilean poet's attempts to elude the police; and from Argentina, Esteros is a quietly sensitive story of two young men revisiting their childhood. And I also had a night at the theatre...

The Mirror Never Lies
dir-scr-lyrics Joseph Giuffre
music Juan Iglesias
with Fransca Ellis, Jon Osbaldeston, Ryan Frank, Spencer O'Brien, Jennifer Harraghy, Darrie Gardner, Greg Keith

The Cockpit, Marylebone, London 14-18.Nov.16

A new musical based on Barbara Pym's novel The Sweet Dove Died, this is an intriguing story set in 1960s London among people who like beautiful things. Antiques seller Humphrey (Osbaldeston) has a crush on his top customer Leonora (Ellis), who is besotted with his handsome nephew James (Frank), who has a hippy girlfriend (Harraghy) before he's seduced by a swaggering American (O'Brien). The plot is enjoyably tangled, but the show is undone by its bizarrely minimalistic staging and simplistic song lyrics that continually state the blindingly obvious, offer lists of emotions and repeat the same ideas over and over. Everyone in the cast adds some colour, including side players Gardner (as a ditzy friend) and Keith (as both a nervous boyfriend and a slimy predator). But the lifeless staging leaves the show feeling like a first reading rather than a polished production. This is especially a problem for Frank's central character, who becomes rather drippy as things progress. Thankfully, Ellis sells it with a belting rendition of the surprisingly good title song right at the very end.

Screenings coming up this week include Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard in Allied, Billy Bob Thornton in the comedy Bad Santa 2, the true drama Hidden Figures, and the animated movies Moana and Sing,

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