Archive for the ‘Roger Michell’ Category

Unbridled Extravagance

My Cousin Rachel

Director: Roger Michell

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino, Andrew Knott, Tim Barlow

South African born British based director Roger Michell has been responsible for such films as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Morning Glory and Hyde Park on Hudson. Michell returns with a cinematic adaptation of the Victorian Gothic romantic drama by Daphne du Maurier My Cousin Rachel set in the dramatic cliffs of Devon and Cornwall and also in Florence Italy.

My Cousin Rachel is a handsome cinematic production held together by a suitably ambiguous performance by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, Youth) as Rachel Ashley who arrives in England to seduce the impressionably young Philip Ashley wonderfully played with besotted bewilderment by Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Their Finest and The Riot Club) who is proving to be one Britain’s rising young actors.

When young Philip’s legal guardian travels to Tuscany to recuperate and then mysteriously dies, leaving Philip’s claim to his cousin’s massive estate in a precarious position, Philip travels to Italy to uncover the source of the mystery surrounding his new relative the beautiful Rachel. Upon arrival in Italy he does not meet Rachel but the Italian lawyer handling his cousin’s affairs played by Pierfrancesco Favino (Rush, Angels and Demons), who Philip suspects is conniving with Rachel to steal Philip’s rightful inheritance.

Back in England, advised by his godfather Nick Kendall played by Game of Thrones star Iain Glen and his daughter Louisa played by Holliday Grainger (Cinderella, The Finest Hours and Anna Karenina), Philip is initially weary of Rachel as she sets foot on English soil soon to arrive at the family home at dusk.

Incredibly dramatic, the one thing Philip has not had in his life is any female influences so naturally he is completely beguiled by the beautiful and exotic half Italian Rachel who makes such a fashionable entrance in local society, which is enough to cause a mild scandal.

But as family jewels are generously given away and as Philip approaches his 25th birthday upon which he will rightfully inherit his cousin’s massive estate, intrigue within the landed gentry is heightened by the scheming and provocative Rachel who often dressed in mourning is portrayed as a sort of Black Widow, a woman with a rumoured  history of killing off husbands to profit off their inheritances.

My Cousin Rachel is the Victorian femme fatale, a noir female character who is subtly undermining all that the male hero is trying to achieve, which in this case is quenching his unbridled lust matched only by Rachel’s own unbridled extravagance. Sexual tensions simmer as the scheming continues, but as the narrative draws to a dramatic conclusion, My Cousin Rachel leaves audiences with a portrait of a woman with considerably dubious intentions.

My Cousin Rachel gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and will be enjoyed by audiences that love period dramas with a touch of the Victorian Gothic, especially scenes of luminous pearls cascading down darkened candlelit staircases.

Hot Dogs on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson

hyde_park_on_hudson

Told from the innocent perspective of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s distant cousin Daisy Suckley, Hyde Park on Hudson is a charming film about a collection of fascinating historical figures namely the pivotal meeting between Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and King George VI and should be viewed as a companion piece to The King’s Speech. Veteran American actor Bill Murray takes the part of FDR and Olivia Williams plays his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, and British actor Samuel West (Howards End) takes the part of King George VI. Set in upstate New York, Hyde Park on Hudson tells of a weekend in the summer of 1939 when the recently crowned King George VI and queen Elizabeth, both whom are reeling from the scandal surrounding the 1936 abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in favour of marrying American divorcee Wallis Simpson gorgeously told in Madonna’s companion film W/E.

The visit of the British monarchy to the American president is meant to bolster American support for Great Britain as the threat of World War II looms with Nazi Germany invading most of Europe and in fact World War II did break out three months later.

Besides the international magnitude of the time, the film centres more on the eccentric Franklin D. Roosevelt America’s president during World War II who crippled by polio resorts to having a string of extramarital affairs including one with his distant cousin Daisy and who despite his physical ailments does not let that deter him from enjoying life and running such a powerful country as the USA. Especially pertinent in the film is the after dinner discussion between the King, who suffering from a speech impediment is soon put at ease by the magnanimous and charming FDR. It shows two politically important men that despite their physical and social impediments have more in common and their strategic meeting soon eases any tension between the United States and Great Britain forging the beginning of a special relationship which is still active more than 70 years later.

Director Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson is an intriguing tale of great political leaders who are viewed through the context of their private frailties and how they triumph not just for their own countries sake but that of the enormous publicity which marked such a visit by a British Monarch and his wife on American soil, in the face of a looming World War. Soon his Royal Highness the King of England is munching on a hotdog in an American style Barbecue and is effortlessly drawn into the less stuffy social conventions of Americans on their home turf. Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) is brilliant as the charming and quite naughty FDR (with his cigarette holders and exotic stamp collection) along with Olivia Williams (The Ghost Writer) cast as the forthright Eleanor Roosevelt. Laura Linney is perfect as the awe-inspired, slightly naive Daisy who is caught in the middle of such a significant historical event.

Beautifully filmed as a period piece, if a tad dark in some scenes, but a fun and interesting comedy serving as a comparison of the differences between British and American cultures and social customs reminiscent of some of the best Merchant Ivory films which are unfortunately no longer made. Recommended!

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