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Conte d'automne (1998)
Too many jarring notes
I somehow managed to miss this when it came out, despite being a Rohmer fan since the 70s. It was a heartbreaking disappointment - I was so aware of the acting (ie they were actors, not characters) and the selfconscious and deeply unlikely dialogue and plot contrivances. So unlike the his naturalistic previous films, that made you feel you were eavesdropping and observing snippets of real life. The basic premise could have been so promising - a feisty widow in her middle years, torn between wanting a man in her life yet afraid of making the move to find one and her kindhearted friend, secure in her relationship, trying to help her. Apart from Magali, who was oddly realistic if irritating, none of the other characters rang true -except perhaps Leo and Isabelle's husband who were barely painted in at all. Rosine trying to fix up her ex-lover with her current boyfriend's mother? - I can sort of understand her feelings toward Magali, as I remember being more upset about losing the friendship I had with an ex's mother when we parted, than losing the ex himself, but this really got into some odd quasi-incestuous fields. Lovely as she is, I can't really see men reacting to Rosine's manipulations as calmly as Etienne and Leo did here. And Gerald - his reaction on being told he had been strung along was unlikely - he confessed he has started to have feelings for Isabelle, but seemed quite happy to take the substitute.In reality, I think Isabelle would have been left sitting there in the restaurant. On a more positive note, there was a real feel of the Rhone Valley - not the tourist dream, but a part hardworking rural, part industrial reality that is modern France.
A Walk to Remember (2002)
I taped this from late night TV because I thought something with Shane West might be interesting, after seeing him on ER. He did well, but was wasted in a trite, clichéd and completely unrealistic film. I at no time believed in any of the characters - the lead girl's 'acting' was just looking doe eyed and purse-lipped and as for the rest of the 25year old 'teens'...... Embarrassingly bad, even for an afternoon movie. There's nothing wrong with a redemption movie - but it insults our intelligence to have such a simplistic narrative, trying to push all the emotional buttons without any real thought or conflict. These aren't the issues real teenagers face, nor are people's reactions that predictable. That said, it doesn't work as an idealised form of reality either. Very forgettable.
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Great production, weak lead and wobbly accents
A wonderful theatrically rich production with excellent supporting cast (Nathan Lane, Juliet Stephenson and Jamie Ellis will now be my definitive view of those Dickens characters) but Charlie Hunnam was not strong enough as the lead. He had star quality (was brilliant in 'Queer as folk')but was not Nicholas. His accent was very odd and changeable ( sounding Welsh at one point) - the girl from Princess Diaries who played Madelaine, although visually right, couldn't keep an English accent going from one sentence to another. When you are English, watching a film set in England, these things grate! Inspired idea using Barry Humphries in a dual role - a very well judged performance. Worth seeing but maybe a book like this is better suited to a TV series.