2 items from 2004
Losers need romance too. So in "Born Romantic", writer-director David Kane presents an ensemble of rueful loners in London -- daft, driven and often wanting in social skills. They all hang out at a salsa club where they hope to bump into the right partner. It's "Marty" to a Latin beat.
Kane has come up with enough twists and surprises to give the somewhat stagnant comedy the appearance of forward movement. While you sense the writer lurking behind these twists and oddball moments, the film is not without its shaggy charm. However, the United Artists domestic pickup will need more promotion than it has gotten so far if "Romantic" is to be discovered by adult audiences Stateside.
The backdrop to the comedy is a London as it is lived in by its inhabitants rather than seen from a tourist's viewpoint in movies like "Notting Hill". Kane establishes a milieu where people manage to get through the day in order to relax at an upstairs salsa club where a kind of fantasy life takes over: One might not find Mr. or Ms. Right, but the beat and rhythms are so hypnotic, you wake up the next day to the realization you had a good time.
Another key location is a cafe/cab stand where the principal characters mainline caffeine and hail taxis. One inexplicable curio in the movie is how its seemingly unemployed males can afford taxis, which are quite expensive in London. Anyway, the movie soon enough isolates three couples and one cabbie to occupy our interest.
Scruffy and bearded Fergus (David Morrissey) searches for Mo (Jane Horrocks), the Liverpudlian sweetheart he jilted a week before their wedding some eight years prior. When he finds her, he finds a woman in an emotional mess thanks to him.
Frankie (Scottish comic Craig Ferguson), living with a bitter ex-wife in a flat they cannot sell because it is, literally, sinking, is smitten with Eleanor (a coolly beautiful Olivia Williams), an art restorer who throws up many barriers to intimacy despite being lonely as hell.
Eddie (Jimi Mistry), a thief, ducks into the club one night to escape police. Almost against his will, he falls for the hypochondriac Jocelyn (Catherine McCormack), whose job is tending grave sites for people who have moved out of the London area. Everyone at one time or another jumps into a cab driven by Jimmy (Adrian Lester), who listens, watches, then dispenses sage advice from the front seat.
Kane offers the spectacle of three obsessed men pursuing women who want nothing to do with them and after a while want even less to do with them. Things fall into a predictable pattern where learning how to dance proves the way to these women's hearts.
The male actors, fortunately, make few concessions to the tawdry nature of their characters. These women really do deserve better. Yet the men explore their shortcomings with a kind of honesty that makes one empathetic at the very least. And the women respond accordingly.
The female roles are undernourished. You "get" them in the sense that the writer has left enough clues as to their hangups and reasons for low self-esteem. Yet these explanations feel beside the point. Having cast his movie with good-looking, savvy actresses, Kane then wants you to believe these women have no other options than a thief, an emotional coward and a dolt under the thumb of his ex-wife.
Technical credits are excellent for the modestly budgeted film. Robert Alazraki's nighttime cinematography gives an air of danger to the romance. Sarah Greenwood's production design from the overheated salsa club to Frankie's sliding flat reflects in witty ways the inner turmoil of the story's characters.
United Artists Films
BBC Films and Harvest Pictures
present a Kismet Film Co. production
Producer: Michele Camarda
Screenwriter-director: David Kane
Executive producers: David M. Thompson, Alistair Maclean-Clark, Melvyn Singer
Director of photography: Robert Alazraki
Production designer: Sarah Greenwood
Music: Simon Boswell
Costume designer: Jill Taylor
Editor: Michael Parker
Fergus: David Morrissey
Mo: Jane Horrocks
Eddie: Jimi Mistry
Jocelyn: Catherine McCormack
Frankie: Craig Ferguson
Jimmy: Adrian Lester
Eleanor: Olivia Williams
Running time -- 96 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Thursday, Dec. 25
The new "Peter Pan" is outfitted with lush period costumes, elaborately romanticized sets, flamboyant wigs, wondrous props, animatronic animals, a melodic symphonic score, dazzling effects achieved through computer graphics, animation, bluescreens and wires and sparkling cinematography that integrates those effects seamlessly. Yet the film never really takes off.
You root for Peter and his gang to rediscover the magic of one of the most charming children's stories ever conceived, a story that has tickled audiences' imaginations for nearly a century. But the film suffers from uneven acting, an over-reliance on production values and an uncertainty over how dangerous the children's adventures should be.
Younger children, especially those who don't know "Peter Pan" from a frying pan, may enjoy the lavishly produced fairly tale with its pirates, Indians and Lost Boys. But the age cutoff, where such enjoyment drops precipitously, probably hits in early adolescence. The film should open strongly both here and overseas, but its inability to reach out to teen or adult audiences will surely harm its boxoffice chances.
The first "Peter Pan" movie is believed to have been made in 1924, two decades after the debut of J.M. Barrie's play and four years before he published the story as a novel. In this version, writer-director P.J. Hogan (who rewrote Michael Goldenberg's screenplay) hews close to the letter of Barrie's tale. He even casts a real boy as its eponymous hero instead of falling back on the long-standing tradition of using a lithe, young woman.
While many of the actors perform as though cast in a stage version, where they are very much playing to the last rows, there are solid performances here. Jason Isaacs, rather one-note-ish as Mr. Darling, the children's bumbling father, gives his other role, that of top pirate Captain Hook, a virile villainy and sexy swagger. As Wendy Darling, Rachel Hurd-Wood, in her professional acting debut no less, quite miraculously manages to charm and beguile, capturing the exact moment when a girl is in transition between child and young woman. As Peter, the boy who will never grow up, Jeremy Sumpter performs the physical stunts with boyish energy but also delivers tender moments where Peter must reveal his loneliness and vulnerability.
Extravagantly wasted, though, are three fine actresses. The worst is France's rising star Ludivine Sagnier, who as the jealous little fairy Tinker Bell is utterly mislaid by the movie. Olivia Williams is mostly required to sleep in front of an open window, awaiting the return of her "kidnapped" children. And Lynn Redgrave overdoes a newly created role of the children's Aunt Millicent, a character that never quite fits comfortably into the tale.
As always, Wendy's nighttime storytelling to her two brothers, John (Harry Newell) and Michael (Freddie Popplewell), leads to an awfully big adventure when Peter Pan, who listens outside their nursery window, lures the trio from their beds to a flight over the rooftops of London to Neverland. Here they encounter the Lost Boys, a curious tribe of Indians (much de-emphasized in this PC version), dangerous mermaids and, of course, a raucous though ineffectual band of pirates headed by Captain Hook.
By relentlessly pitching this film to children, though, Hogan and his collaborators overlook the sophistication, wit and even the oddness -- the children's nanny is a large dog, for Pete's sake! -- of the original work. Nor does the film make any attempt to render the obscure vocabulary and clever asides flung at adult readers by Barrie into cinematic terms. The adventures themselves lack any sense of thrill or jeopardy. Peter -- who, after all, is named after a Greek god -- should be something of a subversive, even disruptive figure, but Hogan and company stick too closely to the Disneyesque version.
There are a few fun additions, like Captain Hook having not one deadly hook in place of his lost hand but an array of sharp devices as the occasion demands. But the filmmakers' determination to leave nothing to the imagination and unwillingness to find ways to refreshen the Barrie story for a new generation keep this "Peter Pan" firmly rooted to the ground.
Columbia Pictures/Universal PIctures/Revolution Studios present a Douglas Wick-Lucy Fisher-Allied Stars production
Director: P.J. Hogan
Screenwriters: P.J. Hogan, Michael Goldenberg
Based on the play and books by: J.M. Barrie
Producers: Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick, Patrick McCormick
Executive producers: Mohamed Al Fayed, Gail Lyon, Jocelyn Moorhouse
Director of photography: Donald M. McAlpine
Production designer: Roger Ford
Music: James Newton Howard
Co-producers: Gary Alelson, Craig Baumgarten
Costume designer: Janet Patterson
Editors: Garth Craven, Michael Kahn
Mr. Darling/Captain Hook: Jason Isaacs
Peter Pan: Jeremy Sumpter
Wendy Darling: Rachel Hurd-Wood
Smee: Richard Briers
Mrs. Darling: Olivia Williams
Tink: Ludivine Sagnier
Sir Edward Quiller Couch: Geoffrey Palmer
Running time -- 113 minutes
MPAA rating: PG »
2 items from 2004
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