Posts Tagged ‘Joanna Scanlan’

The Conception of an Affair

Tulip Fever

Director: Justin Chadwick

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Judi Dench, Jack O’Connell, Kevin McKidd, Holliday Grainger, Tom Hollander, Zach Galifianakis, Joanna Scanlan, David Harewood, Sebastian Armesto, Matthew Morrison, Douglas Hodge

British director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom, The First Grader) tackles a cinematic version of Deborah Moggarch’s novel Tulip Fever with the literary assistance of Anna Karenina screenwriter Tom Stoppard.

Assembling an international cast including Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) and fellow Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Tulip Fever is set in Amsterdam in 1623 at the height of the Tulip trade which flourished in the Netherlands and was in essence the first stock market which blossomed illicitly behind Tavern doors and co-opted by solicitous nuns who grew the beautiful flowers in sacred abbeys away from the hustle of Dutch city life.

With sumptuous costumes by Michael O’Connor and suitably dark production design by Simon Elliott, Tulip Fever focuses on the young orphan Sophia Sandvoort superbly played by Vikander who is forced to marry the wealthy yet childless Burgermeester (local mayor) Cornelious Sandvoort played by Waltz.

Like all Dutch noblemen, Sandvoort commissions a young and impoverished painter to paint the couple’s portrait, a 17th century trend which made Rembrandt famous. In steps the exuberant and excitable Jan van Loos played by Dane DeHaan (Valerian, Kill Your Darlings).

Soon van Loos falls for the ravishing Sophia and deception is conceived mainly for her to escape from her pompous husband who really wants to impregnate her with his preferably male heir.

In a parallel narrative, Sophia’s devoted maid, Maria played by British actress Holliday Grainger (Jane Eyre, The Finest Hours, Cinderella) has fallen for the charming if not smelly fishmonger Willem Bok played by Jack O’Connell (Unbroken) who aspire to get married and have six children together.

In a bizarre twist both Bok and van Loos, two young men desperately trying to increase their liquidity embark on making money on the booming tulip trade, in which the precious bulbs fluctuated in price depending on their rarity and natural beauty of the elusive flower.

Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) plays the Abbess who has to sternly guide the young men in the flourishing yet turbulent tulip trade while the Netherlands was expanding its colonial empire to the Dutch East Indies and South Africa.

Despite the slightly convoluted plot and frenetic story line, Tulip Fever is an enjoyable and raunchy period drama held together by amazing performances by the four main leads which serves as a Dutch version of Twelfth Night.

Audiences that enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring and Shakespeare in Love, will undoubtedly love Tulip Fever, which provides a fascinating cinematic perspective on the brief but flourishing Tulip trade which made the Netherlands one of the riches countries in Europe especially in the 17th century, establishing their own national stability and making them the money lenders of Europe.

With all the deceit, obsession and money trading, Tulip Fever is a riotous period drama and gets a film rating of 7 out of 10.

Tulip Fever is recommended viewing as a historical drama with a uniquely Dutch twist.

Overdue but worth the wait

Bridget Jones’ Baby

bridget_joness_baby

Director: Sharon Maguire

Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Joanna Scanlan, Sarah Solemani, Celia Imrie

Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain) after a six year screen absence reprises her role of Bridget Jones in the third instalment of the hit film franchise, simply entitled Bridget Jones’ Baby. The first two films were based on the bestselling novels by Helen Fielding. Zellweger tackles her role of Bridget Jones with familiar vigour and she is joined onscreen for continuity purposes by Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as uptight London lawyer Mark Darcy and new comer Patrick Dempsey as dating expert Jack Qwaint.

Zellweger and Firth have matured as actors which is evident onscreen, for the best scenes in Bridget Jones’ Baby is shared between them.

bridget_joness_baby_ver3

Bridget Jones finds herself at 43, working as a TV assistant producer for a zany London talk show which is being threatened by a group millennials. She begins to question whether she will ever have a baby, because let’s face it her biological clock is ticking. Never fear!

bridget_joness_baby_ver4

With the help of her new best friend the naughty TV host Miranda, wonderfully played by Sarah Solemani, Bridget Jones soon lands up having amorous relationships first with Jack at a music festival which strongly resembles Glastonbury, shorty followed by a similar sexy scene where Jones and Darcy rekindle their much repressed love for each other at a Christening of a mutual friends baby.

bridget_joness_baby_ver2

As per the film’s title, Bridget Jones soon finds herself knocked up but not quite sure who the father is. Enter a delightful cameo by Emma Thompson as her droll doctor who plays along for the sake of decency.

Bridget Jones also has to break the news of her pregnancy to her parents. Her mother who is running for some minor political office is superbly played by Gemma Jones and her father once again played by Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (Iris) is naturally supportive of his daughter carrying their first grandchild despite her not quite knowing who the father is.

I would be lying if Bridget Jones’ Baby is not aimed at a female audience, as the primary narrative in the film is about the main characters pregnancy and her impending birth, as well as trying to survive the pregnancy with the help of two potential fathers who naturally see themselves as rivals. There is a hilarious scene when Bridget Jones has to be rushed to the hospital only to eventually be carried by both of them, Mark Darcy and Jack Qwaint.

With the help of a delightfully witty script, director Sharon Maguire does justice to the Bridget Jones franchise even leaving the possibility open for a fourth film since Jones’ other main suitor the devilishly handsome Daniel Cleaver who was played by Hugh Grant in the first two films is feared dead, but body yet to be recovered…

Whilst the first half of Bridget Jones’ Baby is fun and quirky, with lots of hilarious moments, the second half does drag a bit, which was done intentionally so that the audiences could appreciate the baby when he finally arrives. Essentially, Bridget Jones’ Baby is highly recommended viewing, and should be a hit with the gang of book club ladies both young and old who seemed to pack the cinemas, shifting the film to number one at the box office.

The Virtues of Vera

Testament of Youth

testament_of_youth_ver2

Director: James Kent

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton, Emily Watson, Dominic West, Hayley Atwell, Miranda Richardson, Colin Morgan, Joanna Scanlan

Swedish actress Alicia Vikander has come a long way from her vivacious debut  as Kitty in Joe Wright’s film Anna Karenina.

In director James Kent’s film adaptation of the 1930’s novel Testament of Youth, Vikander plays aspiring novelist and soon to be pacifist Vera Brittain. The film opens in an idyllic setting  resembling an English summer garden with Vera and her brother Edward played by rising star Taron Egerton, last seen in Legend along with his friends Victor Richardson played by Colin Morgan and the dashing Roland Leighton, wonderfully played by Kit Harrington of the hit HBO TV series Game of Thrones.

As a petulant young woman, Brittain objects to her father buying her a piano and strongly presents her case to her parents played by Emily Watson and Dominic West that all she really desires is to go to Oxford and study literature and classics.

testament_of_youth

At the outset of Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain is portrayed as a strong-minded young woman who was extremely close to her brother Edward and his group of friends which were all destined to study at Oxford. Destiny has different plans when in 1914, Europe is plunged into the bloody and brutal First World War, which initially everyone who enlisted thought would only lost a couple of months.

Her brother and his friends all enrol into the British army and go and fight in France, in the muddy trenches and soon the War develops into a brutal protracted affair. Vera soon abandons her plans for Oxford and enrols to be a nurse to assist the war effort.

Unlike Joe Wright’s brilliant and beautiful adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement about doomed love during the Second World War, Testament of Youth does not maintain the same emotional resonance although dealing with similar themes. Vikander holds her own as the passionate and outspoken Vera Brittain.

Her quest to find her brother Edward, leads her to the front lines in France in 1917 where she is forced to take care not only for wounded British soldiers but also for the wounded and dying German soldiers, making her realize that despite the politics, war effects everyone equally, a devastating loss for both the victorious and defeated nations.

Which is precisely why over a hundred years later, Armistice Day is still celebrated on the 11th November as a commemoration of those countless lives sacrificed during World War 1 and a warning about the perils of embarking on future wars which is especially relevant in the conflict strewn geo-political arena of the 21st century.

After World War 1, Vera Brittain became a vocal pacifist and an anti-war campaigner. She dealt with her huge grief by publishing all the letters of her brother and his friends as well as her own memoirs in 1933 of that horrific time during the war, where she witnessed the brutality and infinite loss of life first hand as a nurse.

Testament of Youth is a fascinating look at the naivety of war through the eyes of a generation which were obliterated by its devastating effects. At some point the film, does not manage to maximise the emotional resonance, which films like Atonement and The English Patient did so brilliantly.

Nevertheless Testament of Youth remains a damning anti-war indictment and an accurate historical portrait of a lost generation, right down to the soft focus production design and period costumes.

Audiences should look out for cameo appearances by Hayley Atwell (Brideshead Revisited) as well as Miranda Richardson (The Young Victoria, Damage) as the stern Oxford professor who recognizes Vera Brittain’s potential as a young writer. Recommended viewing for ardent fans of historical cinema.

Source: Vera Brittain

 

In The Shadow of a Literary Giant

The Invisible Woman

invisible_woman

Director: Ralph Fiennes

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Michelle Fairley, Michael Marcus, Joanna Scanlan, Amanda Hale

Oscar nominated actor Ralph Fiennes follows up his first directorial debut Coriolanus with a film adaptation of a novel by Claire Tomlin, The Invisible Woman, which centres on the brief but doomed love affair between celebrated Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and Nelly, known as Ellen Tiernan a young actress half his age, superbly played by Felicity Jones of Hysteria fame.

As a director Ralph Fiennes seems to find his creativity for portraying the Victorians from skilled director Jane Campion with many shots looking like a pastiche of scenes from her hit film The Piano and the later film Bright Star.

bright_star

As an actor Ralph Fiennes who also plays Charles Dickens is naturally brilliant, inhabiting a larger than life famed author who clearly desired literary attention and popularity more than the love of his massive family. Fiennes does not detract from Dickens reputation as one of the greatest Victorian novelists of the 19th century who went to detailed efforts to document through literature the hardships of the British population during the Industrial Revolution especially illustrated in his celebrated novels Oliver Twist, Hard Times and Bleak House.

This period of literature especially during the mid 19th century and which characterized the reign of Queen Victoria was called realism and along with Dickens, spawned a range of brilliant social commentators including George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Thomas Hardy who all highlighted the plight of the poor especially the appalling conditions of child labour.

The Invisible Woman centres on the period of friendship between Charles Dickens and the novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkie_Collins played by Tom Hollander who wrote The Woman in White in the early 1850s. Here Dickens, aged 45 in rehearsal for The Frozen Deep, a collaborative play written with Collins he meets the gorgeous Nelly (Ellen Tiernan) along with her supportive mother Mrs Frances Tiernan played by Kristin Scott Thomas, ironically Fiennes co star in the Oscar winning film The English Patient.

Despite being married with 10 children, and a 27 year age difference Charles Dickens is scandalously captivated by Nelly who is actually the same age as his oldest son Charles Junior played by Michael Marcus and there is an awkward scene in the film whereby Dickens Sr having resolved to separate from his wife is walking with Nelly through Hampstead and comes across his oldest son Charles, who discover the affair.

Unfortunately as illustrated in The Invisible Woman the love affair between Dickens and Nelly is short lived but she remains the muse for Estella the female character in Dickens most accessible and famous work Great Expectations (published in 1861) who Pip falls in love with.

Felicity Jones adds layers of subtlety and complexity to the character of Nelly a woman who becomes the object of the great novelist’s affection who soon realizes that their affair is ultimately doomed and she will be the one most affected by this relationship. For Dickens, his love of fame and literary greatness trumps any real devotion to Nelly and naturally divorce was out of the question. Nelly realizes that she is living in the shadow of a literary giant and her role in his success will be eclipsed by his fame and popularity.

The Invisible Woman is a thought-provoking and intelligent period piece which at times lacks variety and is slow moving. Fiennes as a director makes a fatal decision not to use much soundtrack in the film, which clearly needs a more suitable musical score. At least The Invisible Woman got nominated for Best Costume Design but lost out to The Great Gatsby at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Viewers get the impression that if Ralph Fiennes had been content on just playing Dickens and letting a more experienced director like Mike Newell or Jane Campion remain behind the camera, The Invisible Woman could be a remarkable film.

This engaging if slightly uneven period piece is saved by the sustaining performance of Felicity Jones who carries the subject matter of the film beautifully. The Invisible Woman is recommended viewing but not absolutely essential and will most likely appeal to literary scholars who are familiar with the writers of Victorian social criticism and ardent Charles Dickens fans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens

 

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
December 2017
M T W T F S S
« Nov    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
  • Mamoru Hosoda Animation ‘Mirai’ Set for July Release
    Japanese animation maestro, Mamoru Hosoda will release his new feature on July 20, 2018 distributor Toho announced. Titled “Mirai of the Future” (“Mirai no Mirai”,) the film centers on a four-year-old boy who feels his place in his parent’s affections threatened by the arrival of a baby sister, Mirai. Then she reveals herself as a […]
    Patrick Frater
  • Once-Powerful Indie Player Wild Bunch Seeks a White Knight
    Wild Bunch is teetering on the financial brink as it tries to restructure its debt, raise capital, deal with an exodus of high-level executives and shore up its once-promising TV unit and flailing distribution activities, multiple sources say. Over the past couple years, the flamboyant European powerhouse has been able to weather a growing financial […]
    Terry Flores
  • Palestine’s Foreign Oscar Candidate ‘Wajib’ Scores Multiple Sales (EXCLUSIVE)
    French sales company Pyramide International has scored multiple sales on Palestinian auteur Annemarie Jacir’s “Wajib,” which is Palestine’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar and just had its Middle East bow at the Dubai Film Festival. The wry comedy toplining prominent Palestinian actors Mohammad Bakri and Saleh Bakri, working together for the first time, has been […]
    nvivarelli
  • How New York Times Reporters Broke Hollywood’s Biggest Sexual Harassment Story
    Want proof that journalism matters? Look no further than Harvey Weinstein. Were it not for The New York Times and The New Yorker, the indie mogul would still be hobnobbing at Oscar parties, attending movie premieres and, if allegations are to be believed, routinely abusing and harassing women. Instead, Weinstein is facing multiple criminal investigations […]
    Alex Stedman
  • Guillaume de Posch Stepping Down as RTL Co-CEO; Bert Habets to Lead European TV Giant
    Guillaume de Posch is leaving his position as co-CEO of RTL, with fellow co-CEO Bert Habets taking sole control of the pan-European TV and media company at the end of the month. De Posch will become a non-executive director at the company. “I had a fantastic time at the helm of RTL Group. Leading this […]
    Stewart Clarke