Posts Tagged ‘Geraldine Somerville’

Kings of the Jungle

The Gentlemen

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Hugh Grant, Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Jeremy Strong, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Eddie Marsan, Samuel West, Geraldine Somerville

Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) plays entrepreneurial American gangster Mickey Pearson as he takes on British society along with his right hand man Ray wonderfully played by King Arthur star Charlie Hunnam is the new Guy Ritchie action film The Gentlemen which is definitely aimed at the British blokes.

Complete with foul language and an array of fascinating and dubious characters from the Jewish Billionaire Matthew played by Jeremy Strong, the Cockney Cleopatra played against type by Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) and Chinese mafia heavyweight Dry Eye played by Henry Golding (Crazy, Rich Asians), The Gentlemen skilfully navigates a web of intrigue as Pearson tries desperately to outwit these bunch of fellow gangsters.

All masterfully told with a kind of camp gossip by the sleazy journalist Fletcher also beautifully played against type by Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins, Maurice, The Man From Uncle). Guy Ritchie directs this convoluted storyline in his usual retro-editing fashion and self-reflexive style which has become his cinematic trademark.

Thankfully, Ritchie has returned from his brief sojourn directing the Disney classic Aladdin is quite at home the genre of the British gangster flick which is synonymous with his name.

Colin Farrell (In Bruges, Widows, Roman J. Israel, Esq.) makes a brief but relevant appearance as Coach as he mentors a group of housing estate hoodlums which inadvertently work for Mickey Pearson and magically trick various opponents out of the highly coveted stash of weed, which the crime boss is so cleverly concealing on British country estates. Between the Jewish Billionaire, Dry Eye and Pearson, all of them are vying for the title of King of the Jungle.

From hoodies to cultured lords, The Gentleman is a masterful and clever story, told with dexterity by Guy Ritchie while showcasing the full diversity of London as the multi-cultural British capital city.

Samuel West (The Darkest Hour, Howard’s End, On Chesil Beach) makes a brief appearance as Lord Pressfield whose daughter has got caught up with a bunch of junkies.  

Director Guy Ritchie makes a play on all the connotations of what a Gentleman is meant to be: noble, kind, loyal as he names this violent, foul-mouthed and exciting gangster flick The Gentlemen which is not surprising from a creator of such films as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

If viewers are looking for a brilliant British gangster flick, then look no further than The Gentlemen which gets a film rating of 8 out of 10. It’s a twisty, violent and flamboyant gangster film featuring an array of super cool characters and crackling dialogue.

A Heartless Kingdom

Grace of Monaco

grace_of_monaco_ver2

Director: Olivier Dahan

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Paz Vega, Frank Langella, Robert Lindsay, Parker Posey, Milo Ventimiglia, Derek Jacobi, Robert Lindsay, Roger Asthon-Griffiths, Geraldine Somerville, Nicholas Farrell

French director Olivier Dahan who directed Marion Cotillard to an Oscar win in La Vie en Rose about the life of Edith Piaf, turns his focus on the more glamourous life of Princess Grace of Monaco, better known as Oscar Winner Grace Kelly who at the age of 26 turned her back on Hollywood and married Prince Rainer of Monaco and soon become embroiled in the politics of that luxurious principality on the edge of the French Riveira. Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) returns to a more accessible role as the gorgeous Grace of Monaco after appearing in several darker films including Stoker and Lee Daniel’s The Paperboy. Kidman’s utter versatility as an actress is clearly evident in this fabulous often sensitive portrayal of Grace Kelly in the transitional years soon after her marriage into the House of Grimaldi and her reluctant turn away from lucrative Hollywood roles including the lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Marnie, a role which eventually went to Tippi Hedren who starred opposite Sean Connery.

Marnie

Instead in the tumultuous years of the early 1960’s with France threatening Monaco’s sovereignty, Grace Kelly decides to play the more difficult role of a Princess, one who certainly captured the hearts of the French, Americans and the Monagasque. Princess Grace and her erratic Prince Ranier underplayed by Tim Roth, mix with a very wealthy set in the late summer of 1961 including Greek Shipping Tycoon Aristotle Onassis played by Robert Lindsay and his girlfriend opera diva and celebrated Greek soprano Maria Callas, a wonderful turn by Spanish actress Paz Vega (Spanglish), while adjusting to the rigid formality of becoming a European princess. In the especially well-scripted scenes between Grace and her Palace confidant Father Francis Tucker superbly played by Oscar nominee Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) who describes the House of Grimaldi as a heartless kingdom.

Soon Grace Kelly has to transform into the luminous and sumptuous Grace of Monaco a dazzling if heartbreaking transformation which director Olivier Dahan emphasizes in every extreme close up shot of Kidman’s gorgeous yet conflicted face. Her intelligent eyes peaking out from a veneer of diplomacy and unhappiness, conveying the depth of an actress who has traded the thrilling life of a film star for the more elegant yet equally scrutinized life of the Princess of Monaco. Grace of Monaco’s legacy is undeniable and this film is out to prove that especially as it recently opened the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Nicole Kidman’s performance is flawless and while the rest of the tale of Grace of Monaco borders more on sentimentality than substance, it is still a stylish and enjoyable film which carefully blends the glamour of Hollywood with the legacy of old fashioned European tradition.

Grace Kelly's Oscar winning role in The Country Girl

Grace Kelly’s Oscar winning role in The Country Girl

Whilst Monaco now has cemented itself a tax haven for the super rich, a reason why Onassis was initially so interested in maintaining  its sovereignty and the source of the enchanted principality much publicized pending conflict with France, back in the summer of 1961, Grace of Monaco‘s skewers the political agreements reached at that time in favour of the charm of the new and practical American actress who become a princess and her increasing involvement with the International Red Cross.

The politics might be questionable in Grace of Monaco, but Kidman’s superb portrayal of this iconic film star turned princess is pivotal to this charming film’s sumptuous appeal. American indie actress Parker Posey stars as Madge Tivey-Faucon the secretive private secretary to the princess along with Milo Ventimiglia as the dashing press secretary Rupert Alan and Shakespearen actor Derek Jacobi’s flamboyant turn as Count Fernando d’Aillieres, Grace’s etiquette coach.

Audiences that loved films like My Week with Marilyn, The Queen and The Aviator will certainly enjoy Grace of Monaco although this film is by no means in that league in terms of script and overall conception. An enjoyable if not too short cinematic outing nevertheless, Grace of Monaco could have added more substance to the thinly plotted storyline, but that was not Dahan’s intention, which remains an incomparable film to his previous success of La Vie en Rose.

 

 

Clashing of Vanities

My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn directed by Simon Curtis is a charming film about the clashing of vanities in a more subtle and polite society following the filming of the musical comedy The Late Prince which would become 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl teaming up the great British Theatre personality Laurence Olivier and 1950’s American screen goddess Marilyn Monroe at Britain’s legendary Pinewood Studios.

Michelle Williams takes the part of Marilyn Monroe and might not be as voluptuous physically, but her brilliant performance of the doomed and fragile screen icon Monroe who was a legendary flirt and a consummate movie star is layered and superb. Kenneth Branagh is equally brilliant as the vain and pompous Laurence Olivier whose  divergence into cinema with the Prince and the Showgirl was beset with problems on the Pinewood studios set especially made more difficult by the pill-popping, temperamental and sultry Monroe.

The clash between Monroe and Olivier went far deeper than vanity or fame, it was also a conflict of their two vastly different styles of acting. Monroe was trained in the Lee Strasberg school of method acting  popular in Hollywood, California originally pioneered by Constantin Stanislavski and refers to the method of actors drawing on their own personal emotions and memories in their onscreen portrayals.  Olivier was a London Shakespearian theatre actor and was quite unused to the medium of film.

Monroe felt and acted in the moment which worked brilliantly on the short takes of cinema, whilst Olivier was trained in the more established tradition of  Classical Theatre where thespians  rehearsed and performed a repertoire of theatre from Greek tragedy to plays by Sheridan, Shakespeare, Chekov and Noel Coward and prepared for their roles by learning their lines down to the last iambic pentameter and essentially being on time and in full costume. Their vastly different styles of acting is exemplified in the original 1957 film, The Prince and the Showgirl.

My week with Marilyn is told through the eyes of a 3rd Assistant Director Colin Clark played with surprising vigour by rising British Star Eddie Redmayne who is smitten by the tantalizing Marilyn Monroe and has a wonderful supporting cast including Zoe Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, Dominic Cooper as Hollywood agent Milton Greene along with Julia Ormond as Laurence Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh and Dougray Scott as playwright Arthur Miller, Marilyn’s husband at the time of shooting Prince and the Showgirl. Watch out for a great cameo by Dame Judi Dench playing the great Shakespearean actress Dame Sybil Thorndike. Where My Week with Marilyn excels is how beautifully it illustrates how divergent British and American cultures were especially in the 1950’s and how the clashing of vanities between the screen siren Monroe and the theatrical Olivier underlined both these stars own vulnerabilities and their strengthens.

Casting of Williams and Branagh as legendary stars Monroe and Olivier was critical in making My Week with Marilyn a lovely and substantial film about the making of film itself and the insecurities and drama that goes on between a Screen siren who knew how to titillate the public especially men and an aging theatre actor desperate to make his cinematic debut.  Both Williams and Branagh deserved earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor but lost out to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady and Christopher Plummer for Beginners at the 2012 84th Academy Awards.

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