Tuesday, 7 January, 2014

4 and a half stars
Philomena scene

A secret an Irish woman, Philomena (Judi Dench), has kept for fifty years triggers an extraordinary sequence of events after she attempts to trace the son, Anthony, she had as a teenager, but was forced to give up, in British director Stephen Frears’ (“The Queen”, “Tamara Drewe”) latest feature, that also bears her name, trailer.

With the aid of a mildly aloof former BBC journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), Philomena learns that Anthony was adopted by a well off US family and went to live in Ohio. After she travels to America with Sixsmith, in the hope of tracking down Anthony, she makes a number of intriguing discoveries about his life and work.

Based on actual events depicted in Sixsmith’s 2009 book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, Frears crafts a tale that entices at every turn. Despite a Hitchcockian-like reveal part way through, this touching story of forgiveness, compassion, and acceptance, never relents its pace, while Dench puts in yet another unforgettable performance.

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Our Idiot Brother

Monday, 31 October, 2011

3 and a half stars

The premise

Our Idiot Brother (trailer), a comedy drama, is the latest feature of Jesse Peretz, a US filmmaker and musician, and is the story of a well intentioned though naive and bumbling market gardener, Ned (Paul Rudd), who has the grating propensity to speak out of turn, often causing inconvenience or embarrassment to those around him.

Following a stint in jail, after selling marijuana to a uniformed police officer, Ned finds his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) has moved on, and taken up with the slow-witted though affable Billy (T.J. Miller), leaving Ned homeless, and having to rely on the hospitality of his three reluctant sisters so as to keep roof over his head.

The play

While Ned is disappointed at being turned away by Janet, he is especially distraught when she refuses to hand over his dog, named Willie Nelson, to him, even though it is clear the dog prefers Ned’s company. With no where else to stay he calls upon eldest sister Liz (Emily Mortimer), who is married to a documentary maker, Dylan (Steve Coogan).

Dylan gives Ned work as a production assistant, but after Ned uncovers something Dylan has been keeping from Liz, he is sent packing. He then goes to stay with Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), an ambitious magazine journalist, but Ned embarrasses her in front of a neighbour, Jeremy (Adam Scott), who she has feelings for.

Youngest sister Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) offers Ned a spot in her garage, sleeping in a rubber dinghy, but he soon causes a rift between commitment shy Natalie and her girlfriend, Cindy (Rashida Jones), with his ill-timed banter. Ned is subsequently left with no choice but to move back to his mother’s (Shirley Knight) place.

The wrap

Much of the comedy in “Our Idiot Brother” lies in Ned choosing to share what he knows at inopportune moments. While his revelations are unwelcome, they have a way of forcing those he encounters, particularly his sisters – who are in various states of denial in regards to professional or personal matters – to confront their shortcomings.

While well scripted and entertaining, “Our Idiot Brother” is a little thin on the character development of its supporting cast, especially Ned’s sisters, who we don’t get to know all that well. Otherwise Rudd puts in a stand-out performance with his portrayal of the socially immature, Peter Pan like, Ned.

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The Trip

Friday, 1 July, 2011

3 stars

The premise

The Trip (trailer), a comedy, is the latest feature of British director Michael Winterbottom (“A Mighty Heart”, “The Killer Inside Me”), and is a follow up to a similar project, A Cock and Bull Story, made in 2005, which saw the leads, Steve Coogan, and Rob Brydon, who are British comedians, playing fictionalised versions of themselves.

Based on the TV show of the same name, the film sees Steve carrying out a tour of northern England’s best restaurants, after being invited to do so by The Observer, a British newspaper, while dragging along a not wholly enthusiastic Rob, after his younger girlfriend, Mischa (Margo Stilley), decided to return to the US for some time out.

The play

Mischa’s departure is a double blow for Steve as he’d hoped the assignment from the newspaper would impress her. Instead he is left desperately trying to find a travelling companion, and after numerous knock backs, finally entices Rob to leave his family and go along with him, after promising to give him a portion of the paper’s payment.

The journey gets off to a less than ideal start though, when on the first night, they find their fully occupied hotel only has one, double, room for them after a booking mix up, something that considerably unnerves Steve. At the last minute however the hotel receptionist manages to find Rob a room. Steve, in return, somehow feels obliged to make a move on her.

The rest of the week-long trip sees the pair visit an array of top notch restaurants, and attempt to out do each other with imitations of Michael Caine and Sean Connery, or scenes from classic films, while pushing the other to the limit with annoying behaviour. At the same time Steve also attempts to work things out with Mischa, and find acting work in the US.

The wrap

“The Trip” starts out as a road trip film for foodies and appreciators of fine dining, but quickly gets lost in the little world Steve and Rob create for themselves as the journey progresses. While serious food critique obviously wasn’t really on the agenda here, I was surprised at how little notice they took of the food, or the places they ate at.

Self respecting food bloggers on the other hand would have been photographing every detail. The lack of focus on the food, and to a lesser extent, the beautiful surrounds of the Lake District, is unfortunate as Steve and Rob’s incessant banter quickly becomes repetitive and tedious. Less talk and more food however might have made “The Trip” a bit tastier.

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