Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Campbell Moore’

A Noble Vagabond

The Lady in the Van

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Director: Nicholas Hytner

Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Roger Allam, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, Claire Foy, Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Stephen Campbell Moore

The Madness of King George director Nicolas Hytner brings to the screen the hilarious and bizarre autobiographical stage play by Alan Bennett, The Lady in The Van about an itinerant and basically transient lady who wilfully parks her colourful van outside Bennett’s smart Victorian townhouse in Gloucester Crescent in Camden Town, North London in the beginning of the 1970’s and then stays for fifteen years.

The Lady in question is Margaret Shepherd, wonderfully played against type by Oscar winner Dame Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite) who is already garnering critical acclaim for her role. Dame Maggie Smith has more recently been reintroduced to a whole new generation of fans with her portrayal of Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in the hit BBC TV series by Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey.

In The Lady in the Van, which is semi-autobiographical, the cantankerous and destitute old lady who seems to live her whole life in a van forms an unimaginable bond with famed British playwright, Alan Bennett who incidentally also wrote the screenplay for this film and the Oscar nominated Madness of King George.

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In a typically English way of dealing with the semi-transient, The Lady in the Van self-reflexively explores themes of old age, homelessness and caring whilst giving the destitute a sort of vagabond nobility, whilst Bennett and the actor playing Bennett never morally judges the situation as inexcusable despite what the neighbours think.

British stage and TV actor Alex Jennings (The Queen, Wings of the Dove, Belle) plays Alan Bennett but the film belongs to Dame Maggie whose wonderfully acerbic performance elevates her dire situation as a homeless woman living in a van to that of eternal royalty. Only Dame Maggie can pull off this type of role, with a combination of poignancy, passion and dignity, making The Lady in the Van a delightful treat for all those lovers of British cinema.

All the best lines in The Lady in the Van are naturally reserved for Dame Maggie and whilst the rest of the cast merely contribute as a collage of colourful and eccentric Londoners including cameos by Dominic Cooper, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Frances de la Tour, Roger Allam and Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as a corrupt cop intent on extorting money from the mysterious and often rude Lady in the Van.

Whilst the directorial embellishments of Nicholas Hytner can be forgiven, it is the masterful script by Allan Bennett, which is so witty and droll, that makes The Lady in the Van such a pleasurable cinematic experience. Of course Dame Maggie Smith fires on all cylinders in this critically acclaimed performance by an actress who has given audiences so many memorable performances in such films as A Room with a View, Ladies in Lavender, Gosforth Park, Evil Under the Sun and more recently The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The Lady in the Van is highly recommended viewing for those that love a slightly irreverent British drama, wonderfully acted and beautifully written by the man who had to endure this mysterious woman on his doorstep for almost fifteen years.

Demons in the Kitchen

Burnt

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Director: John Wells
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Daniel Bruhl, Alicia Vikander, Emma Thompson, Omar Sy, Uma Thurman, Matthew Rhys, Stephen Campbell Moore, Lily James, Sam Keeley

Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, American Sniper) gives a sterling and frenetic performance as Michelin star chef Adam Jones in the film Burnt, who returns to London from New Orleans, to redeem himself, his reputation and make amendments with the colleagues he upset during his stint in Paris.

Assembling an eclectic cast including Uma Thurman as a Food Critic, Emma Thompson as a Nurse/Social Worker and Daniel Bruhl as the maitre’d Tony. Burnt is a brilliant examination of one man’s attempt to regain his former culinary glory and even surpass it, with a brittle script by Steven Knight.

The film of course is assisted by the two central and brilliant performances by the blue-eyed Bradley Cooper who really excels in the role of the temperamental and arrogant chef Adam Jones who not only is a demon in the kitchen but has to face his own inner demons. Sienna Miller (American Sniper, Foxcatcher) makes up the second superb performance and is fortunately given much more screen time than she had in both her previous films.

Miller plays aspiring Chef Helene who has to juggle bringing up a little girl and working in a hectic kitchen where it’s not only the male egos that threaten her livelihood but their intense competitiveness. Miller is literally surrounded by demons in the kitchen as she has to stand in for Jones after he is beaten up by some nefarious French gangsters for an outstanding drug debt. The scenes between Sienna Miller and Bradley Cooper are riveting too watch, clearly signifying an onscreen chemistry which is both comfortable and electric.

August: Osage County director John Wells’s new film Burnt is certainly primed for Oscar season and it’s especially Cooper and Miller which deserve some thespian recognition. Audiences, while not salivating over the nouvelle cuisine served up at London’s posh Langham Hotel in the West End, should look out for Matthew Rhys as rival chef Reece who also turns in a superb performance opposite Cooper. Then again Rhys has really proven himself as an actor after roles on the hit show Brothers and Sisters and the excellent espionage series The Americans.

As culinary dramas go, Burnt is a top notch film, held together by a riveting performance by Bradley Cooper as the prima donna chef who not only throws pots and pans, but also his reputation to chance, in a concerted effort to redeem himself in one of the world’s toughest capital cities, London.

At times Steven Knight’s script leaves more questions than answers, however Burnt is redeemed in the acting department with both Miller and Cooper turning in fiery and intense performances ably assisted by a European supporting cast including Alicia Vikander (Man from Uncle), Lilly James (Cinderella), Omar Sy (Jurassic World, Good People) and of course the Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl whose screen presence has certainly been raised after his superb performance as Nikki Lauder in Rush.

For all the foodies out there, Burnt is a must see film and will positively find an international audience with the proliferation of MasterChef programs gripping TV screens around the globe.

Haute Cuisine

Highly recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the superb French film Haute Cuisine and Hundred Foot Journey.

 

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