The Theory of Flight (1998)
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A previous User's Comment gives 8 out of 10 for the film and 10 out of 10 for both Branagh and Bonham-Carter's outstanding performances - I agree entirely....
It's easy to win plaudits just because you're playing a physical or mental cripple (Daniel Day-Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, Dustin Hoffman, etc.), and Helena Bonham-Carter may not quite capture the physical degradation of MND, but her vocal stretching and ruthless emotional drive compensate entirely. In fact, almost all her performance is conducted through her eyes (and what eyes!). This is an intelligent turn from an actress who is rapidly undoing her English Rose reputation, and emerging as a figure of some stature. Awards must surely follow, though not, alas, for this fine performance.
Branagh, one feels, has never quite given his best on film (except possibly 'Hamlet', and there his playing was diluted by the large cast). Here, though, he tops his other appearances, playing to the hilt a self-loathing, unstable, ultimately lovable guy with a subtlety he hasn't always displayed, and exhibiting both intelligence and depth. In short, we believe him, just as much as we could NOT believe him as Frankenstein, as the priest in 'The Proposition', as the lawyer in 'The Gingerbread Man', even as Andrew in 'Peter's Friends'. This is surely his finest performance yet - so why could he not produce the goods much earlier?
As a film, it looks more like a television offering, and without its stars it probably wouldn't amount to very much. But it's been a pleasure to see this pair perform their socks off like this, and I eagerly await more from them (though not 'Love's Labour's Lost'...). 8 out of 10, but Branagh and HBC get 10 out of 10.
I had to do some research, in order to assure myself she wasn't actually afflicted, as was her character, with (well?), what she was afflicted with. I was in absolute awe of this beautiful lady. She pulled it of flawlessly.
Who would have thought that sexually explicit circumstances involving the final wants, and needs, of a unique young lady, could be interpreted as tender, and romantic? Well, they can be, when the right performers present them in the proper manner, as they did in this wonderful movie. I forgot to mention how dynamically beautiful Miss Carter looked in this movie. I have often said she was the most beautiful creature to have ever graced the face of our earth, but she seemed to have out done herself in this particular movie.
I hope any of you who watch this movie enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you for letting me express my opinion.
I can understand an actor's desire to stretch, to avoid the romantic stereotype. Well, they did, but really - the script droned on, Bonham-Carter's clothes were tres chic, and the occasional speeded-up "madcap" sequence could have been an outtake from a Beatles' movie, or the old Rowan and Martin Laugh-In.
I never got the point - other commenters say the Branagh character was a dreamer. I never felt that. He was a loser, and not very bright, and certainly not endearing. The business with the bank robber disguise was merely painful to watch. Certainly not amusing.
Bonham-Carter's realistic (one supposes) attempts as realistic speech were harder to understand than the first 15 minutes of Lancashire accent in "Full Monty."
The poetic ending, with him high on a hill with her buried under the monstrosity of his airplane was too orchestrated. Was there a choir of angels, or merely a soundtrack?
Go back to the classics or something with a spine and an arc to it. Donate this to PBS.
When I saw this film I began to enjoy it after the first few minutes it was funny, heartbreaking and a little romantic. One of my favourite scenes was when Jane asked for help to lose her virginity, the expression on Richard's face was hilarious and yet stunned.
The Theory Of Flight is a charming story filled with enough comedy, drama and the right amount of romance to keep viewers entertained.
The acting from Branagh and Bonham-Carter is superb especially the latter who is always believable and strong in her role. The chemistry between the two also lifts the movie.
The title comes from Richards masterpiece, a plane made of junk and his old paintings. Flying here is a symbol for both Richards and Janes living life to the full so that one can carry on and the other can face the end.
A beautiful and funny movie that I would recommend to anyone. don't let the subject matter put you off.
Branagh plays Hamlet here, a role and achievement at world class level. Bonham-Carter plays a role with her eyes, of which she is among the very best, perhaps the best alive. Her crowning achievement is her Ophelia at the play-within-the play after being confronted by another Hamlet (Gibson). Her eyes!
It also has a couple very rich devices. The notion of a machine that speaks for B-C and cannot be interrupted but which is separable from her. This sets all sorts of possibilities for narrative enfolding. And the notion of B's canvases forming a flyable collage (another machine!) is ripe with manifold potentials for self-referential depth.
Such promise. So why is this such a failure?
Because both the writer and the director were without a focus, and probably without the talent to pull off realizing that focus. How many such disappointments do we have to see before the nature of failing loses novelty? More and more, it seems to me that no level of talent in the acting pool can do more than express a vision. If the vision is lacking, the performance must also.
This is set up for a pretty simple feel-good movie. It just needs more and bigger laughs. It relies mostly on Jane's virginity for the jokes. Also Jane's speech impediment prevents the jokes from getting the right timing. I also can't see finding a gigolo to be that difficult unless Richard is more awkward. If Richard is wackier, this movie could be more fun.
The good: enjoyably twisted and unsentimental approach to disability, good acting (probably Branagh's best work in a questionable film career), some interesting images (Branagh in flying goggles!) and a cinematic sense unusual in Brit cinema. Director Paul Greengrass has done excellent hard-edged work elsewhere, notably "Bloody Sunday", and brings some of that sensibility to this.
The bad: occasional lapses into sentimentality or silliness (note to all British directors - DO NOT put 'wacky' speeded up sequences set to ska music into your films unless you want them to resemble the work of Mel Smith). A tricksy ending which didn't quite work, although kudos for avoiding a "Terms of Endearment"-style deathbed scene.
The questionable: the whole idea of casting able-bodied actors in disabled parts is a bit of a hot potato these days, in the same way as white actors blacking up. First seeing Helena Bonham Carter in the chair was a bit of a "black and white minstrels" moment, although I think she overcame it with a fine, tough performance.
We never believe Branagh's plane really flies, although I guess as it's mainly intended symbolically that doesn't matter too much.
All in all, much better than one would have expected, even if it didn't quite hang together as a movie. I caught the beginning by chance and stayed up to watch till the end so I guess that's a recommendation. 7/10.
It bugged me that an intelligent and web-literate woman like Jane had not researched her enterprise better or even acted on it independently. This damaged the positive images by making her more helpless.
Also, the cynical feel-good ending left me cold. I was annoyed that Richard's life became the primary cause for concern - but maybe that was the key flaw in the whole movie. I wasn't really concerned about his 'redemption'. The character of Jane (and HBC's performance) were the highlights.
Happy to discuss.
and surely, ken and helena can act. also, the movie progresses into something better towards the end and actually does make a point.
helena bonham carter also surprised me with her character. jane has a mean side that she uses to keep distance and repel pity. then again she has a soft side that's just looking for love. the only thing that surprised me even more was branagh's character...this was a triumph of acting, the movie itself is nothing unique.
see if you are an acting student...if you're looking for pure entertainment you can skip this one. it's sean penn serious! oh my, that was a bit harsh it does feature a couple jokes...not for escapists though.
Richard ends up trying to help Jane Harchard reluctantly. She is a young woman suffering from A.L.S., or Lou Gehrig's disease and is confined to a motorized wheel chair. Jane is extremely intelligent, but has a dark side and a salty vocabulary. She uses a hand held device to speak sometimes, as her speech is not clear. What Jane loves to do is to lose her virginity, at any cost. Jane and Richard clash as they meet, but a mutual tolerance soon makes them comfortable with one another.
Jane, who watches porn on her computer, has a notion for finding someone like Richard Gere in "American Gigolo", who will, for a fee, have sex with her. When Richard takes her to London, they find the right man for the job. His fee is exorbitant, but they agree. Since they have no money, Richard decides to rob a big bank. Unfortunately, things don't go according to plan when Jane realizes that she can't go through with what she had wanted. At the end, Richard takes Jane for a ride in his crudely built plane for the thrill of her life, something that brings them closer, as they find an affinity with one another.
Peter Greengrass directed this quirky film which presents an unusual situation. Jane is clearly not the romantic heroine in mainstream films, and yet, she has such a sweet aura about her that is hard not to feel for her and what she is trying to accomplish. Mr. Greengrass shows an affinity Richar Hawkins' material he wrote for the film. The movie doesn't try to be cute or give a rosy picture of a young woman afflicted with an incurable disease.
Helena Bonham Carter is the main reason for watching the film. She makes a wonderful Jane. On the other hand, Kenneth Branagh doesn't seem too well suited for this type of comedy. Somehow, he has problems of his own in the way he interprets Richard. Gemma Jones has some good moments as Anne, Richard's former love.
"The Theory of Flight" shows a good director. No doubt Peter Greengrass will go to bigger and better things.