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Seven friends in an acting troupe graduate from Cambridge University in 1982 and go their separate ways. Ten years later, Peter inherits a large estate from his father, and invites the rest of the gang to spend New Year's holiday with him. Many changes have taken place in the lives of all the friends assembled, but Peter has a secret that will shock them all. Written by
Liza Esser <email@example.com>
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[Watching Peter fill a basket with firewood]
Hello. just coming to see if you're doing it properly.
[Peter throws another log on]
Oh, no, you're doing it all wrong - I'll have to help you!
Do you have wood in Los Angeles?
Well, we have Hollywood!
Now, I don't want to have to tell you again, stop it, stop it now!
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For those of us who have experienced countless "reunions" in our mature lives, there is much to recognize here. No matter what the year in real time, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
This is basically an intelligent script. That is why I am reluctant to have to fault the director's overwrought interpretation as evidenced by a good deal of melodramatic interplay where understatement would be so much more effective. Only Kenneth Branagh manages to carry it off well, especially in the final scene. I was particularly annoyed by the waste of talent in making the character played by Emma Thompson something of a comic figure. The line "fill me with your babies" is an example of bathos rather than something antic or farcical. If read properly, it should evoke pity for someone who is only mildly neurotic and fully capable of mature insights -- as further scenes demonstrate.
An audience expects greater depth from a serious play that has as its center the otherwise trite scenario of disparate guests coming together for a weekend in the country. Unless farce is intended, the laughs ought to come from wordplay, not pies in the face or anguished physical disintegration.
Still, I like the idea of fresh characterizations that pop up from time to time like that of "Peter" as the centerpiece here.
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