Missed potential as the failure to engage hurts it deeply
I missed this when it was on BBC2 last year because I forgot to set the video, or rather I messed up setting the video and recorded something else instead. It took till recently to get the chance to see it again and so I did. The film is based on a play about addiction and sees recovering alcoholic and poet Paul Peplow interviewing millionaire businessman Victor Quinn. The interview is a flop but it leads Victor to employ Paul in a job that Paul quickly learns is unimportant and not something he is suited for. As with the interview, Victor continues to needle Paul about his addiction and his supposed cure. Later Paul meets Victor's wife Elsa, herself a former addict, and the two fall for one another behind the back of this powerful man.
Although I have not done a particularly good job of capturing it, this film did sound interesting to me and the cast especially seemed to offer much. At times the film appeared to be hitting this potential, with the tightly scripted and fast-paced dialogue that reminded me of David Mamet. Certainly the subject appeared to be of interest but yet somehow I found myself more interested in the occasionally pattern of speech rather than the characters or what was going on. In essence the subject of addiction and desire appears to be being discussed while also running it through the narrative but in reality it doesn't ever make it work as a discussion or a theme because it never feels real and never convinced me as a viewer to the point where I would have cared. We never really understand the motivations of the characters or the relationships between them – everything happens to fast or without any real reason, whether it is the probing/tempting of Paul by Vince or the sudden love between Paul and Elsa. This sort of atmosphere continues until the film reaches an end, which itself is quit unsatisfactory.
This is not to take anything away from the performances though because they are roundly good and it is only the material that lets them down. Considine, Pryce and even Thurman all play their parts well and they deal well with the pace of the dialogue. In each of them there is enough to suggest to me that they knew their characters and understood what was happening behind and beyond the words – however this is not something that they are able to bring to the screen and, as such, the film still struggles even though it has an impressive trio in what is essentially a three-hander.
It is a shame because the quality appears to be there and the potential is certainly there but the film cannot make it work. Maybe I would feel the same about the play, I'm not sure and may never know but certainly here nothing really ever rang true for me and the "discussion" in and around the nature of addiction wasn't strong or interesting enough to engage me, mainly because of the lack of any sort of clarity or focal point. Interesting for the flow of dialogue but flawed as a film.
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