Not Only But Always (TV Movie 2004) Poster

(2004 TV Movie)

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Superb central performance
houndtang7530 December 2004
After a slightly shaky start this dramatisation of the life of Peter Cook, centring on his relationship with his sometime comic partner Dudley Moore, became thoroughly engrossing. Credit must go to Rhys Ifans, an actor who I previously only knew as the irritating Welsh hippie type in Notting Hill, who caught the look, voice and mannerisms of Peter Cook perfectly. Aidan McArdle was also excellent as Dudley Moore, an amiable type who was put through hell by the self-loathing Cook. Terry Johnson's script was also very good; although some telescoping of incidents occurred, this can be excused in the name of dramatic license. In all an interesting look at a man with undoubted intelligence and talent who always wanted something more but was never sure what it was he was looking for.
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Brilliant study of comic genius
maxjenner-120 December 2004
Brilliant study of comic genius Peter Cook and his relationship with Dudley Moore.

Hilarious, disturbing and genuinely moving.

The performance from Rhys Ifans is one of the greatest ever given to celluloid and should clean up at the awards. At times it is difficult to remember that I was watching a drama and not a documentary - so credible is Ifans. I have never seen an actor give as convincing a performance where I actually believed I was watching Peter Cook rather than an actor playing him.

Likewise, Aidan McCardle is also very strong as Dudley Moore.

Terry Johnston's script and direction blends light and shade and is always imaginative.

An absolute gem of a movie.

10 out of 10
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Strangely moving
Alex Cutler (acutler)31 December 2004
This superbly acted and directed 'biopic' was riveting viewing for any Peter Cook/Dudley Moore fans. Rhys Ifans was particularly convincing as Peter Cook.

The emphasis is (however) firmly on Peter Cook, even though it is primarily about Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's relationship. The lack of focus on Dudley Moore, is my only serious criticism of the piece. You only really experience Dudley through Peter Cook, yet the film is set up to imply that it is balanced between the both of them.

I have know idea how true it is, but like all the best biopics, it is utterly convincing and compelling viewing. Arguably Peter Cook invented 'alternative comedy' and this film supports this view, and all his personality flaws as well as his genius.

I would liked to know better how Dudley and Peter met, and how Dudley entered the 'business', this is very glossed over; in fact the film doesn't really go into Dudley's equally long list of flaws, which would have been fun, instead the film gives us a strange mixture of 'noble Dudley' mixed with extremely 'shallow Dudley'. However, (as a Peter Cook fan) I was still very satisfied with the result.

This film contains extreme language used in quite nasty ways, in quite large quantities. I have no problem with this, but if you do, you won't like it!
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he31231 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Fine performances all round, especially Rhys Ifans, who actually seemed to get more like Peter Cook the older the character became. The writing was superb and highlighted Cook's and Moore's extremely volatile relationship both on and off the stage. Having the duo's best character creation 'Pete and Dud' narrate the action was a stroke of genius, one scene in particular moved me, and that was when Moore told Cook he no longer wanted to work with then cut straight to 'narrator Pete' alone in the room calling for Dud and looking around dejected.

One of those films that you wish wasn't on Channel 4 with commercial breaks, it seems to disrupt the flow.
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Finally something on screen from Ifans that I like
karldinnel31 December 2004
I only caught the last hour of this due to having to work late last night (boo hoo!), but both Rhys Ifans and Aidan McArdle were fantastic.

I remember Peter Cook from my youth and I thought it uncanny how Ifans reproduced the frustrated genius of the man. As for the production as a whole, it was a very insightful look into how Cook had difficulty coping with Moore's success away from him, and his own problems with matching his earlier career later on in life. (Personally I think he was extremely bright, but was handicapped by idleness.)

Now, I've seen a number of films that have featured Ifans. Perhaps I have been unlucky and only caught the bad ones, but this has to be the first I've seen him in that I've enjoyed. The films incidentally were: Love, Honour and Obey (where he was quite good as a bad-tempered gangster, but the film itself was pretty dire), Twin Town (awful), 51st State (a nightmare) and Notting Hill (sugary nonsense where Ifans was playing a sort of "Uncle Tom" slob of a Welshman to Hugh Grant's sophisticated Englishman - why does scriptwriter Richard "Blackadder" Curtis laugh at the Welsh so much?).

But until last night, the best thing I've seen Ifans in was on stage - in Accidental Death of an Anarchist (admittedly Dario Fo's play is one that an actor can have a lot of fun with) at the Donmar Warehouse a few years ago. Hopefully, he will be more discerning choosing his parts in future. If he does then I reckon he could be a future Guinness (but please don't get involved with Star Wars).
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A Good Evening--8/10
Clark Richards17 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
All in the space of one year, the creative powers that be have made two biopics centering on perhaps the two funniest and most brilliant British comic masterminds from the 1960's, both who coincidentally shared the name of 'Peter'; the HBO produced, 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers' and the Channel Four Films produced, 'Not Only...But Always', a sampler platter look into the life of Peter Cook and (to a lesser degree) Dudley Moore (Aiden McCardle).

Although it may be hard to ascertain how close Geoffrey Rush came to playing the real Peter Sellers, the man away from the cameras. Rush gave an almost out of body performance by nailing down the many varied characters that Sellers brought to life, and by doing so, found himself walking away with Emmy and Golden Globe awards for Best Actor. As spectacular as Rush's performance was, I believe the performance from Rhys Ifans as Peter Cook may even be better. Not only does Ifans capture perfectly the comic delivery, voice and manner of Cook's many characters, but he is also able to convey the inarticulate voice of desperation that troubled Cook in his later years.

If there's any fault to be found in this film, besides the quick work that almost every biopic seems to share, is that the "Not Only" part of the title, that of Dudley Moore, gets such short shrift. Although Dudley Moore is portrayed as a very sympathetic character to the cruel bully that Peter Cook could be, I can't help but feel that Moore comes off as pathetic, not quite sympathetic. I wonder if Dudley in real life wasn't closer to the man who could tell Cook to f*ck off when being picked on by Cook and not the little man who wanders in and out of Cook's life, cursing under his breath. Dudley was a massive talent and a great performer, just not a performer on the level of Cook, who could easily improvise a surrealistic comic situation or deal in 10-minute monologues. I guess I may never know.

The only moment I felt the urge to cringe was when the actor playing Blake Edwards says to the camera, "Hi, I'm Blake Edwards". Really? Was it necessary to take the time to introduce Blake Edwards? Couldn't we just see a reenacted scene from 10? We'll get the idea. Anyway…

This film is very moving at times even though it is quickly paced. It also breaks away from conventional film making by knocking down the third wall. In this case the narrative is handled by Pete 'N' Dud. They casually make remarks about the extras and green screens and at times these characters are used as ghosts within scenes. This film making technique seems to be all the rage as it was the same technique used in the Peter Sellers biopic. Nevertheless I found it to be inventive in its own right, and incredibly touching.

This is the kind of movie you watch once and then scour the movie rental shelves looking for Bedazzled or The Wrong Box.

All in all…. a good evening.

Clark Richards 8/10.
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Deeply moving
bjacob1 December 2006
If you don't know much about the biographies of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, don't expect to build yourself a solid culture about their lives just watching this movie: quite a lot of important things are glossed upon, or reported a bit incorrectly, or not enough developed. Take for example the attitude of Peter Cook towards David Frost: just a couple of quick references appear in Not Only But Always, without any background, and from these we don't understand much.

But where the movie is a brilliant achievement, is in describing the lifelong collaboration and love/hate relationship between the two main characters. This is portrayed with subtlety and compassion, and with such attention to the hurt feelings (and pride) of the protagonists, as it was a very well narrated love story. If you have ever had a very intense and mercurial creative or sentimental involvement with someone else, you will comprehend the struggles of Cook and Moore. In this sense, NOBA is definitely a better and more enjoyable movie than your average biopic.
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Peter Cook was really Withnail?
annieoz4 December 2006
Looking extraordinarily like Withnail at his most dissolute, Rhys Ifans gives a pretty good shot at Peter Cook. And the others do their own impressions of the fab four - Miller, Bennett, Moore & Cook - convincingly as well. Miller is very much hand and arm movements, Bennett is a genuine look-alike and the Dudley Moore is remarkable.

Two queries: Why didn't they give him blue contact lenses when one of Cook's most striking features was his very beautiful blue eyes.

Secondly, why didn't they mention the film he made after Bedazzled? It wasn't a popular success which may have contributed to his sense of malaise as Dudley rose to the top.

And a possible goof: Wendy claims she wasn't invited to the funeral (seen off by the fierce wife #3). But there she is in the church. Just a bit of dramatic telescoping or insufficient research?
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Accomplished but with something missing
Douglas Devaney31 December 2004
The problem with biopics, particularly of those in living memory, is that they rely so heavily upon impression (rather than interpretation) that you can end up spending most of your two hours or so asking: "Who's that supposed to be?" No such problem with Rhys Ifans and Aidan McArdle's Peter Cook and Dudley Moore respectively - particularly when playing them on the point of disintegration in the 70s. Ifans has Pete's cold, almost trance-like, stare and fey way with a cigarette to perfection while McArdle (like Moore) grows in stature throughout the proceedings: which is quite a feat given his size.

As a re-imaginer of popular culture and the relationships within it, writer/director Terry Johnson is a past master. His central conceit of having the monochrome Dagenham philosophers Pete 'n' Dud watch a colour film about Cook and Moore's lives is inspired, particularly as Pete points out the post-modern methods being used to his chip-gobbling midget mate.

(By the way, if you think I'm hung up about Dud/McArdle's height, you wait 'til you hear what Pete/Ifans has to say about it.)

All the essential moments, particularly of the 60s, are highlighted here - Beyond The Fringe, David Frost, Eleanor Bron, Not Only But Also, etc. - and checked off. Yet still there's a sense of something missing, and it's not just the fact that the script highlights Cook over Moore.

At heart, rather like the middle of a doughnut, there is nothing of substance here. Certainly nothing that you couldn't have learnt from the brilliant documentary "At A Slight Angle To The Universe". Instead, what you have is Cook as a reptilian philanderer blessed with genius and Moore as a hectoring fishwife (the old "comedy duo as marriage" cliché is well and truly overplayed here) who also happens to be a trouper.

Where is the joie de vivre and charm that Cook and Moore both possessed as well as the self-pity and alcoholism that this film would have us wallow in? Despite some clever lines (and curiously rewritten classic sketches), Johnson seems to be more interested in what tore the two men apart rather than what brought, and kept, them together in the first place.

That said, the church choir singing "Goodbye-ee" will live with me forever.
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Great Times
Johno Hartigan15 February 2006
OK so i haven't seen this yet but i really want to because of the only reason i can think of. i was the hot dog guy on the side of the street! i was an extra on this movie an my parts were filmed in Auckland City New Zealand. it was a great experience for me and above all of that i actually got 2 meet this fine talented actor, Rhys Ifans! He is great in all that he does. High respect held by me for this great individual, i was also in other scenes of this film. Working on this film and meeting Rhys in the flesh has made my acting passion stronger than ever and i know one day (hopefully soon) some one will see my true acting talent! Rhys, thank you so much. u may not remember me but i'll never forget what you have given me and what you did for me that day on set. Where can i find my copy??

Johno Hartigan
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Eery, Compelling, Sad, Lingering.
atconsul31 December 2004
If you're middle-aged like me, Pete and Dud were always there, from the new dawn of 1963 when Cook almost single-handedly turned Supermac into Silly Old Mac, and we felt meritocratic Britain had arrived, to the cynical exploitative desperation of Derek and Clive 1976, after Python had run its course, and alternative vision looked just as wonky as all the other optical aberrations.

In between, Stars were real talents that burnt brightly and radiated electromagnetic energy. Miller was Renaissance man, Bennett the new literato, Cook debunker-in-chief and Frost the entrepreneur of a new Britain in a way that oddly pre-parodies New Labour as if Cook had written the ending. And Dud was Pete's mate.

As for America, who knows why Beyond the Fringe worked there: we learn nothing from this piece.

In fact we learn nothing much to form the setting I describe, which I think is what makes this film eery and sad, a portrait of a fading person rather than his timeless talent. Like all such men, Cook's contribution to the canon of British culture is more than the sordid banality of his flawed life, except in the realisation that such works have always demanded the time and pressure at the typewriter that breaks all but the most powerful personal bonds. Or that to be this much of a funny djinn maybe you do have to be vapid on the inside. Above all, I think the production should have followed Cook's own monochrome observation and started at the end. Sad lives that end chronologically in bathos, as most do, do not mean sad work. Vapid? Yes, Dud, I am a man who reads his reviews with the Thesaurus beside me. But I only fleetingly reveal my lack of relationship with my parents even to you.

I can't decide whether it's a flaw of the film. Surely you have to have been there to feel what it means? And surely that doesn't include the magnificent Ifans and McArdle, which makes our surrogate comics' contribution all the more stunning: they hadn't left the nursery long before Bo Derek gave Dud back the ego Pete had wrung from him. But I do wonder if "...but Always" in itself makes Cook accessible to a new generation, and perhaps that's a shame: it would have been easy enough to sew in two or three complete sketches so that we can gauge for ourselves how it works, after all the *writing* at least stands timeless, even if the performances and the man are gone.

As it is, we just had repeated, diminishing echos of MacMillan and the one-legged man, echos that mean something only to those who were there for big bang. Whilst this can make good art it also loses most of the potential audience and is therefore by definition elitist.

Speaking of elitist, Peter Cook was clearly as haughty and arrogant as any, but the Cook portrayed here is a snob of the worst kind to boot, and sneers at Moore and Bennett for being mere Grammar School boys, or is any ammunition acceptable? Well, lack of legs is, so perhaps none of it is as alternative as we might imagine. The Private Eye of Ingrams, Rushton and buddies, into which Cook fitted so deliciously, was only too willing to admit that, satirists or not, the new generation Establishment was merely reinventing itself, irreverent but irrevolute, and irrelevant if wildly entertaining.

Overall, this one could just run. Just because it tantalises, presents an image for the curious, leaves unanswered questions about the man's work for a new generation, portrays a dazzling spectacle of a person nearly in view, perhaps it will invite new interest in his writing and performance. Or perhaps there's nothing there but the ghost of a time long gone, by a savage critic also gone.
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Not Only Good But Also Lacking....
monkofmagnesia30 March 2010
This biopic assumes the audience knows the story already, so it doesn't elaborate on certain aspects of the story. If you did not know that, later in his life, Peter Cook was pretending to be Sven, a man who lives in a lighthouse, and was calling a late night radio show, you would not understand the scene early in the movie. Certain things in Peter Cook's life aren't mentioned at all, like his brief success in American television with the show "The Two of Us." Nevertheless, as biopics go, this is one of the best. Great acting! Rhys Ifans captures Peter Cooks mannerisms and that unique look he had in his eyes. Aidan McArdle captures Moore's voice, but he is not doing an impression. He is great in the role. The movie does not, to me, explain any of Cook's motives. If you did not know anything of his life and just saw this, you would think he was just an arrogant twit, in love with himself, who enjoyed nothing more than putting down Dudley. Still I would recommend renting the DVD and watching it twice. The second time you watch it, watch it with the commentary on.
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Spoiler free review
Mateja Djedovic11 March 2017
All biopics inevitably fall into the trap of simplifying a lifetime of genius and then having to shoehorn it into two hours of eventful drama. Some succeed, most don't. The ones that do however either hang their hook on some particular event like "Trumbo" did with the blacklisting or just outright fictionalise everything and capture the spirit of the person into an imaginary story ("Amadeus"). "Not Only But Always", a biopic on the genius duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore attempts to tell the whole story and fails to do so. I shan't dabble into minor squabbles with the film's accuracy ("Ad Nauseum" was recorded before "10" was shot etc.) because the most important thing this film needed to get right it got absolutely wrong. It takes the complex, energetic and endlessly fruitful relationship between Cook & Moore and simplifies it into a series of rows. Not a hint of their mutual love and respect is seen, not a hint of their chemistry or that magic they had together. Watching this film one gets the sense of hatred and contempt between the two men never the love that must have been there. This isn't simply my view. The hate-filled energy emanating from the duo has been contested by numerous biographies and people who knew them. Even Peter Cook's first wife has spoken out against this production. The heart of it is not missing it's wrong, which is far, far worse. This is not the fault of the film's two stars. Rhys Ifans and Aidan McArdle are spot-on as Pete & Dud, respectively, and the framing story (which involves Pete & Dud, the characters, watching the life story of Pete & Dud, the comedians) is the best part of the film as they manage to portray the duo so uncannily that I found myself unable to tell real footage from the recreation. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of writer/director Terry Johnson who seems content to simply sensationalise a 30-year partnership. Watching this film I got the same feeling I get when I read a tabloid. All rows, no depth, no insight. This truly surprises me because his play "Insignificance" (later brilliantly filmed by Nicolas Roeg) is absolutely the perfect biopic of not one, but four people. Taking an event that never happened, draping it in the soft gauze of surrealism, Johnson managed to capture the essence of Albert Einstein, Marylin Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Joseph McCarthy. The essence of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore has evaded him.
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Not Only But Always: A Faithful and Compelling Biopic
Baron Ronan Doyle15 February 2010
Though I'm far too young to have ever enjoyed the comedy of Cook and Moore during their lifetimes, I'm fortunate enough to have been introduced to the Derek and Clive recordings and through that much more of their work. As such, I was a very big fan going into this.

For those not aware, Not Only But Always details the comedy duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, who might well have invented comedy itself with the subsequent influence they had. The film takes the viewer on a journey from their first meeting to Cook's death, spanning the length of their comedic partnership.

Certainly relying primarily on its characters, Not Only But Always gives an objective portrayal of the highs and lows of their tumultuous pairing. The relationship between Cook and Moore is accurately shown as desperate, frustrated, anger-ridden and brilliant, the uglier sides of the story never avoided. Their alternations between teary eyed laughs and teary eyed screams provide an excellent portrayal of this infamously difficult couple. Both leading actors do a fantastic job in creating this fascinating and heartbreaking dynamic, the irritating pitfalls of Cook's personality splendidly relived by Rhys Ifans. It is impossible not to sympathize with both characters in their respective plights; laugh at the audacious brilliance of Cook's one-liners; and wet oneself in delight at the hilarious exchanges between the two. The story is informative and entertaining, mixing well the real life recorded incidents with the filmmaker's perceptions of the likely conversations and incidents occurring behind closed doors.

A faithful and compelling biopic, Not Only But Always moves a little too fast at times, its storyline feeling rushed at points. In spite of this, the combination of hilarity and difficulty in watching these men tear each other apart provides us with an unmissable viewing experience which will hopefully lead all who see it to fall in love with the work of these two great men.
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Ifans The Magnificent
martin-worthing28 December 2006
The likeness to Cook is incredulous. Ifans grip of his satirical tone, sarcastic cruelty and eventual internecine nature, is captured to perfection and ably supported by Aidan McArdle as Dudley Moore.

Those who can recall the first release of the infamous 'Derek and Clive' cassettes, will particularly enjoy that content in the story. Who can remember anyone, who on first introduction to these two character's didn't laugh, sometimes to the point of near unconsciousness at Cook's monotone, seemingly 'ad lib' delivery, eventually forcing Dud to breaking point and uncontrollable waves of laughter.

Strange now, at this distance, how it's Cook's less public persona that is probably the most memorable of the two. It's worth remembering however, that the screenplay is based upon his autobiography, so at times the presentation tends to reflect that input

Dudley's bright candle, nonetheless did give a lovely light whilst it shone, be it all too briefly.

The whole thing is so well done, that at times I thought I'd travelled back in time. I'd never heard of Ifans, before this performance but await other appearances with positive anticipation.
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