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The potential and the finer moments are lost behind a plot that gets more excessive and messy as it goes on
When J.J. Curtis got his break in show business (as a result of the headliner being crippled after a fall) he got a shot on his own gameshow, The Big Prize. The show was mostly ignored by the critics apart from those that derided it for its blatant promotion of greed but, of course, is watched by millions and millions of families around the UK. Diagnosed with brain cancer, Curtis decides to ignore the condition and employs award winner new author Jonathan Snitch to write the story of his life. Curtis accepts and becomes a witness in Curtis' descent as he gets drawn into a ratings war with the younger and crueler presenter Dave Turner.
It is easy to see the potential in this film because it is darkly comic, interesting and attempts to hit targets within the world of celebrity and the media. However it is also hard to ignore the fact that it fails to do it in a totally convincing manner indeed the excesses within the script mean that the subtleties and intelligence is rather overwhelmed with the noise. It is a shame because behind the story of a ratings war going to absurd extents, this is a great little piece about the nature of celebrity and, more importantly, how that world has had its toll on Curtis. This produces great little moments of pain and character that made this film just about work for me although I must admit that a lot of it came from the skill of the actors rather than the material. Sadly the main story that acts as a frame for all this is delivered in a rather too messy fashion and the excesses put me off just as the smaller touches drew me in; I would have liked the ratings war to be less about murder etc but more in Curtis' head it wouldn't have damaged the dark comedy (because it wasn't funny anyway) but it would have avoided the mess.
Like I said though, the cast are a big part of the smaller moments coming through because they are mostly good. O'Toole gives a great performance; he hams it a bit on the excesses but he never loses touch with his character and thus is always there for the better moments. Like another reviewer has said, to me it was an award-winning performance and would have been if it had been in a less messy film. Gillen goes the same road but has less to do beyond the excess, although he manages well enough. Lester is a really good actor and shows class here but he has very little to work with other than being a good narrator. The support cast features many famous faces such as Sawalha, Brown, Robertson, Williams and a few others but really it is O'Toole's to dominate and he does (mostly in a good way).
Sadly though the total film is not that good even if the potential does become apparent in a handful of scenes where the finer detail shines through. The excessive nature of the story tends to dominate the character side and it is to the film's detriment because it makes it noisy, messy and unconvincing. The cast try to fight this and occasionally win but the overall impression is one of messy excess and, although I liked part of it, I completely understand why this film wasn't seen by many people and that those that did, didn't like it that much.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful.
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