Saturday, July 05, 2008

Two more movies

With all the cold weather we've been doing very little except sitting in our lounge, wrapped in blankets even with the heater going, and watching a bunch of movies I got out of the library. My wife's sick with a heavy cold, so that was the excuse. I've already mentioned Will Smith's movie, but since then we've also watched Little Voice and Good Night, and Good Luck.

Little Voice
is adapted from a play, and adapted pretty well, all things considered. Brenda Blethyn is really the star of the piece, even though the focus more and more is on Jane Horrocks, who plays Laura, commonly known as Little Voice. Blethyn throws her heart and soul into her part, and in spite of her courseness and vile tongue, is far more endearing than Horrocks' character.

The problem is that the character of Little Voice is too improbable for us to believe in. She takes the play from realism to fantasy and tries to combine the two - unsuccessfully, in my opinion. In the end we just become irritated with her, even though we can understand how she might have got the way she is. For someone who lives in virtual isolation and whose voice is unpleasantly childlike to have the means to sing like Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey is just out of the ball park, especially as she's surrounded by a bunch of truly down to earth characters. Any musician watching the film quickly gets puzzled by the fact that when she does come out for her big one night of singing, she apparently never practices with the orchestra (which happily moves from one number to another) and you also wonder who did all the arrangements without her being giving them any indication as to how they were going to be sung.

And more, at the end there's a major fire in the house where most of the action takes place, a big enough fire to destroy the place. Yet Little Voice and her mother go back inside, up the stairs, touch stuff, have a fight - all in a building that would still be smouldering hot and impossible to breathe in.

Michael Caine also appears in the film as a seamy loser of a promoter, Jim Broadbent appears with a terrible hairstyle and Ewan McGregor makes a ham-fisted attempt at the lover. Somehow McGregor doesn't suit romantic films (or Star Wars prequels, either). He lacks the ability to look sincere in a love scene. Think he should stick to dead serious movies.

We've just watched the second movie, a film directed by George Clooney, who also appears in a secondary role. It's an intense piece, with little humour, no character development, a wisp of a subplot and not much drama between the characters themselves. The drama takes place offstage, as it were, with Joseph McCarthy's (real-life) rantings being the main thing that the other characters are in conflict with. It works, but only just. It's serious stuff, almost of the kind: and don't you forget it. I found it intellectually interesting, but emotionally dry. We knew a lot at the end about Ed Murrow's ideas, but nothing about his personality. You want to ask: where's his wife and family? Do they exist, or does nothing exist outside these TV studios? (Things are so claustrophic that that's how it feels.) We know that the George Clooney character has a family, but you wouldn't think so, by the way he acts. Wives in this movie are singularly unimportant. The only wife to appear shouldn't be there because she's married to one of the blokes (Robert Downey, Jnr in a very understated performance) and working with your husband or wife isn't allowed in this environment. (It's hard to know why this aspect of the story is there, really, as it has no dramatic point, and no real emotional effect.) Even the death of one of the newsmen by suicide is given very little room in the film - almost as little as the 'obit' Murrow tacks onto one of his broadcasts.

A rather disappointing movie, given its cast, its class, perhaps showing that even ideas have to be dressed up in drama to make them interesting.

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