I doubt that this is Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby, but I can’t say since I’ve never read the novel. On its own, however, Douglas McGrath’s film is palatable and admirably directed. Nearly as dandy as the mature dialogue is Rachel Portman’s soothing score and Ruth Myers’s realistic costumes as all three serve the tale of a good man surrounded by shocking avarice and self-interest.
A measure of charm but not much else, I’m afraid, comes from Charlie Hunnam in the title role, and the same is true of Anne Hathaway as the girl Nicholas loves. I dislike Jim Broadbent’s crude voice in the part of schoolmaster tyrant, but he himself is convincingly wicked. Then there’s Christopher Plummer, as Nicholas’s uncle, moving from serviceable to authoritative, and Tom Courtenay is also first-rate. For the most part the cast is distinguished in this not great but good tragicomic film.
Released in 2002
The French Amelie (2000), a monster hit in the country of its origin, is as offputting as it is enchanting. Winsome Audrey Tautou enacts an intensely shy, peculiar do-gooder of sorts who falls hard for a solitary fellow employed at a porn shop.
“Am I the only one who finds Amelie [the do-gooder] just a tad creepy?” asks critic Charles Taylor. No, I do too. I find the entire movie a tad creepy, for all its visual vivacity. Should we expect anything different from a film whose treatment of sex is contemptibly cheap, a romp without consequences? For one thing, even the porn shop receives a friendly nod from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
For a man who has threatened a major-league terrorist, Tony Stark—a.k.a. Iron Man—certainly leaves his house unprepared for the savage aerial attack that constitutes Iron Man 3‘s first large-scale action sequence. Where are the robotic guns? It should be understood, though, that the movie’s narrative is fundamentally for children. Everything else, I would say, is for grownups as well as children, which is good news. Shane Black’s film is faulty but fun, a relentlessly commercial family pic (made by Marvel/Disney—again, relentlessly commercial). Predictably, Robert Downey Jr. is unerring in the title role. The one-liners he spouts are only part, albeit the most important part, of what makes IM3 a semi-comedy. Guy Pearce and Sir Ben Kingsley can also be funny. The film is close to being a laugh-fest with explosions.
Another thing: there may be a mini-message in the film—terrorists are invariably ULTRA-villains (Guy Pearce, this means you).
In the landmark Michelangelo Antonioni film L’Avventura (1960), from Italy, the troubled young woman Anna (Lea Massari) disappears during a yachting party, never to be found. While searching for her, Anna’s best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) and her boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) begin a shaky romantic liaison.
A striking secularism, with mere touches of Catholicism, exists in L’Avventura‘s vast world. But man without religion, without belief, turns into a missing person of sorts (as Anna is literally missing), with only eroticism employed as a tool for consolation.
Never again would Antonioni show as much ingenuity as he did in this picture. Consider the eerie footage of the empty town called Noto. And the filmic suggestion of human vulnerability in the spaciousness of the ocean. Consider the small-town men eyeing and beginning to surround an uneasy Claudia. And the sad, riveting mise en scene in the film’s final minutes. On top of it all, the scenario glitters with merit.
(In Italian with English subtitles)
I said below that Chinatown is the 1970s’ 1937. The Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013) is not 2013′s 1922. It’s fantasyland’s 1922, with its hyperbright visuals, formidable set design, quicksilver editing, etc. It’s a pretty pleasurable trip from the man who directed Moulin Rouge, complete with Moulin Rouge romanticism, and if it’s style-over-substance, does this really matter so late in the game? Scott Fitzgerald’s novel has long been a classic, and everyone knows what its themes are. By this time we might as well see a highly visual Gatsby.
Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby) is fine for Luhrmann’s purposes. Tobey McGuire, as Nick Carraway, is an impeccable, likable innocent. The women in the film don their gay apparel (that is, their dazzling costumes), and Carey Mulligan and Elizabeth Debicki look fabulous. The acting of both is effectual, even though Miss Mulligan is not really the Daisy Buchanan of the novel, which is Luhrmann’s fault. He co-wrote the screenplay. As Tom Buchanan Joel Edgerton starts out phony, but doesn’t stay there.
One wishes the writing in this glitzy entertainment had been consistently convincing but, at any rate, Luhrmann does respect Fitzgerald’s story—almost as much as he respects . . . glitzy entertainment.