Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Grant’

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.

Heroic Heiress

Florence Foster Jenkins

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Director: Stephen Frears

Cast: Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg, Rebecca Ferguson, Nina Arianda, Stanley Townsend, Christian McKay, John Sessions

No actress plays a diva quite like Oscar winner Meryl Streep. First it was her brilliant portrayal of the Fashion Editor Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada. Now in the capable hands of The Queen director Stephen Frears, Streep plays the delusional American heiress Florence Foster Jenkins opposite British star Hugh Grant.

For once Grant holds his own opposite Streep and as a rather stylish couple in Florence Foster Jenkins set in lavish New York musical circles in 1944 as the Second World War is drawing to a close.

Jenkins who unfortunately had an awful singing voice but believed that she could sing beautifully, enlists the help of accompanying pianist Cosme McMoon wonderfully played by Simon Helberg from the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory. Helberg acts with his eyes and his expressive disapproval of Jenkin’s awful voice is soon transformed into a fondness for the eccentric heiress who genuinely thinks her voice is superb.

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Naturally her singing ambition is encouraged by her husband St Clair Bayfield fabulously played by Hugh Grant (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sense and Sensibility). In a complicated arrangement Bayfield enjoys his conjugal activities with the gorgeous Kathleen, played by Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) who isn’t impressed with Jenkins rise in popularity.

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Three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady) nails her interpretation of Florence Foster Jenkins as a lonely American heiress who due to an unfortunate illness, namely syphilis, is never able to have children so she sets her sights on conquering the fickle and snobbish world of classical music and in turn believes she has the makings of a star.

Her crowning achievement came during the infamous concert at Carnegie Hall where to bolster audience numbers she gave free tickets to inebriated American soldiers about to embark on a foreign war. Remember this is the golden age of radio and Jenkins exploited this medium to its fullest, soon becoming a favourite for her willpower rather than any inherent lyrical traits.

Assisted with a witty script by Nicholas Martin, Frears approaches the tale of Florence Foster Jenkins in a high camp fashion, making the film a poignant and hilarious tale of the diva whose fabulous costumes and awful singing made her the heroic heiress of New York.

Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful film and will sure to garner some recognition for the sumptuous production design and brilliant costumes in the approaching awards seasons.

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Simon Helberg is particularly superb as McMoon who is mesmerized and scandalized by the life force that was the flamboyant Florence Foster Jenkins https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Foster_Jenkins.

This film is highly recommended viewing, a wonderfully acted tale of an heiress who certainly made the most of her fifteen minutes of fame despite popular opinion.

Retro Repartee

The Man from UNCLE

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Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Hugh Grant, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani

British director Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, RocknRolla and Snatch) reinvents the Cold War spy drama while sticking to its original retro chic with The Man from UNCLE.

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Henry Cavill (Superman) plays Napoleon Solo, who after a stunning chase sequence in East Berlin, reluctantly teams up with Russian KGB agent, Illya wonderfully played by Armie Hammer, complete with dodgy accent and a bad temper.

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Swedish actress Alicia Vikander plays Gaby who is gallantly rescued from East Berlin by Solo only to become a pawn in a deadly international game of espionage involving chic Italians who are actually Fascists and a desperate search for a nuclear warhead, which is being developed by a glamorous but lethal Italian couple Alexander, played by Luca Calvani (The International) and his vicious wife, Victoria played by Elizabeth Debicki last seen in The Great Gatsby.

Using cool split screen cinematic techniques and an innovative retro-active editing sequence, Ritchie leads the audience on a brilliant dance between espionage, glamour and intrigue, all the usual tropes associated with the hugely successful spy genre: exotic locations, a nefarious villain and a femme fatale who is not what she seems.

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What makes The Man from UNCLE so watchable, is the brilliant onscreen chemistry between Hammer and Cavill, who constantly outdo each other with brawn and wits and naturally are both competing for the affections of the gorgeous yet bold German femme fatale, a role which Alicia Vikander really takes on as her own after playing minor roles in The Fifth Estate and outshining Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina.

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Watch out for the British charm offensive, Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) as Waverly who is back on form with such witty lines as “For a Special Agent, you are not having such a special day”. The dialogue, action sequences and narrative in Man from UNCLE are all perfectly matched to that early 1960’s spy film, additionally helped by most of the film being set in Rome and the Italian coastline. Even the soundtrack for Uncle is suitably chic, with a couple of sixties Italian songs playing enlivening the amusing action sequences.

The costumes are fabulous, the stunts are brilliantly choreographed and the dialogue is suitably witty with both Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer on top form as the two leading men who are jostling for their own pride, accomplishments and competitive edge. It’s the clashing egos of Napoleon and Illya which are fun to watch and director Ritchie plays on the actors’ ability to maintain that constant jealousy between the two characters, coloured with retro repartee which creates a dynamic fraternal bond.

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Elizabeth Debicki is suitably sinister, as the slinky yet dangerous Italian enemy. With plentiful historical references of lurking fascism, Cold War paranoia and sixties glam thrown in, the plot of The Man from Uncle never falters, especially from a director who is clearly unafraid to take risks.

The Man from Uncle is highly recommended viewing for those that have enjoyed Ritchie’s earlier commercial successes and also love a witty, retro spy film which is not afraid to poke fun at the genre itself.

Sexual Repression in Film

Maurice

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Director: James Ivory

Cast: Hugh Grant, James Wilby, Rupert Graves, Ben Kingsley, Denholm Elliott, Phoebe Nicholls, Helena Bonham Carter, Judy Parfitt, Simon Callow

Cinema Lovers Workshop on Sexual Repression in Film presented as part of the 4th Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2014 http://www.dglff.org.za/ on Thursday 26th June 2014 at the KZNSA Gallery, Durban.

Director James Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice is a nuanced and delicate study of sexual repression in the Edwardian era based upon the posthumously published novel by the acclaimed British novelist E. M. Forster who also penned Howards End, A Room with A View and his most famous novel, A Passage to India.

At the beginning of Maurice, Maurice Hall’s tutor, played by Simon Callow standing on an English beach instructs the young boy that “Your body is your temple”, a sentiment echoed by the Victorians.

The film moves to 1909 when Maurice Hall played by James Wilby and Clive Durham played by Hugh Grant are at Cambridge together and over a classical tutorial discuss the notion of words versus deeds. The post-Victorian early Edwardian attitude towards sex was prohibitive and repressive.

Whilst reading Classics at Cambridge, there is an early reference to the “Unspeakable Vice of the Greeks” which is seen by the Edwardians as a strong rejection of Western Christian principles in favour of Mediterranean hedonism and unadulterated sexual desires. Maurice also establishes a close link between all male sports such as cricket and boxing and the forbidden homosexual love between men which was naturally more than fraternal.

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Viewers must bear in mind that Maurice is set not even 20 years after the infamous trial of Oscar Wilde in 1895 when he was accused and convicted of sodomy and sentenced to two years hard labour so beautifully documented in the 1997 Brian Gilbert film Wilde starring Stephen Fry, which forced the majority of repressed homosexuals in late Victorian London to flee to the continent.

Under the shadow of the Oscar Wilde affair, homosexuality was considered the worst crime in the calendar, making the environment of Edwardian England sexually repressive for the lead characters in Maurice. Ultimately Maurice charts the doomed love affair which starts at Cambridge of Maurice Hall who was suburban middle class and Clive Durham which came from Landed Gentry and was a symbol of inherited wealth being the only son in the family who would inherit the country estate Pendersleigh Park.

Interestingly, many Edwardian homosexuals to avoid scandal married each other’s sisters to continue an illicit gay love affair post marriage. Many suspected homosexuals in England prior to the outbreak of World War 1 were arrested on charges of soliciting and immorality. This is exemplified in the film by the scandalous arrest of Lord Risley, who was arrested while trying to pick up a soldier in an alleyway and publicly named and shamed in the press, suffering a similar fate to Oscar Wilde without the associated sensational publicity. Lord Risley was sentenced to six months hard labour.

In this repressive society, the fearful and closeted Clive Durham rebukes Maurice’s affections for fear of scandal and being charged with immorality especially as he is due to inherit the family’s gorgeous country estate. By 1912 and after a brief visit to Greece, Durham returns and breaks off all romance with Maurice and promptly marries the naïve Anne Woods played by Phoebe Nicholls recently seen in Downton Abbey leaving Maurice angry, jilted and heartbroken.

Maurice turns his sexual frustration to boxing in Bermondsey and considers that he is suffering from an unspeakable disease consults a doctor and a hypnotist Lasker-Jones wonderfully played by Ben Kingsley who aptly suggests that Maurice flee England and live abroad in a country more accepting like France or Italy.

The third part of the film takes place around Pendersleigh in 1913, the country estate owned by Clive Durham who is approaching his nuptials with Anne. At this estate works an unconventional and almost pastoral figure Scudder beautifully played by Rupert Graves, who is an underkeeper and not afraid to wear his sexuality on his sleeve. The character development of Maurice is evident in the film and soon he succumbs to the opportune sexual advances of Scudder who enters into Maurice’s bedroom at Penderleigh through an open window and promptly seduces him. The central character’s development goes from emotional innocence to sexual experience and is expertly played by Wilby who along with Hugh Grant both won Best Actor awards at the 1987 Venice International Film Festival.

In a series of interesting hypnosis scenes between Kingsley and Wilby, it is suggested that a cure for his characters sexual urges to those of the same sex should be to play sport and carry a gun. As Maurice and Scudders sexual relationship blossoms within the confines of a Country Estate, the scenes with Maurice by the window become symbolic of his character being trapped in a sexually repressive environment with Scudder being the one who ultimately releases Maurice from this sexual and moral dilemma. Scudder plans on fleeing the strict rules of Pendersleigh and emigrating to the Argentine and whose only crime is bring guilty of sensuality.

Maurice and Alec Scudder’s eventual reunification at the boat house is a way for Maurice to decisively escape the repressive environment he find himself in, ultimately leaving the pompous Clive Durham, repressed and stuck in a loveless marriage to Anne Woods. The closing shot of the film is one of Clive Durham closing the window and himself into a stifled existence, symbolic of a generation of Edwardian young men who have yielded to social conventions like marriage and sexual repression. A repression which was ultimately was to be broken by the outbreak of World War II in 1914.

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After the success of A Room with a View, Maurice was a continuation in a long line of lucrative and Oscar winning Merchant Ivory Productions and securing James Ivory a Best Director prize at the 1987 Venice Film Festival and can be seen as a prelude to his more successful films like Howards End and the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day.

In terms of the history of queer cinema, director James Ivory’s Maurice is a superb cinematic starting point to examining what it was like to be gay in a sexually repressive environment over a century ago. Thankfully society and the film industry has developed significantly since then, flinging open the glass closet doors of Hollywood.

Suggested Reading:

Maurice by written E. M. Forster

Morgan, A Biography of E. M. Forster written by Nicola Beauman

 

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