A story of a man who fakes his own death and assumes a new identity in order to escape his life, who then moves in with a woman who is also trying to leave her past behind.A story of a man who fakes his own death and assumes a new identity in order to escape his life, who then moves in with a woman who is also trying to leave her past behind.A story of a man who fakes his own death and assumes a new identity in order to escape his life, who then moves in with a woman who is also trying to leave her past behind.
And other times the film itself can be completely unnecessary and a very dull slog despite actors' good intentions. So is the case with Collin Firth, who gives a fairly strong performance but can't overcome the offbeat eccentricities and the rather lame fable on the American Dream of starting ones' life over. Material like this sounds good on paper and in our heads, as we can relate this back to the ideology of the American Dream and the pursuit of happiness, but rarely is the matter very compelling on camera. This especially is the case with Fith's Arthur Newman character being very vanilla and, despite unique efforts, rather ordinary.
Firth's character's birthname is Wallace Avery, but he feels he was born inhabiting someone else's life. A golf professional, but still unsatisfied with life's offerings, he takes it upon himself to change his identity to that of "Arthur Newman." Soon after this decision is made, Arthur finds a barely-conscious woman outside named Charlotte Fitzgerald (Emily Blunt), traveling under the fictional name "Michaela" or "Mike." Arthur's timely actions of taking the woman to the hospital give her back her consciousness after an apparent overdose. When she comes back, Michaela and Wallace take a liking to each other and decide to embark on an impromptu roadtrip to Indiana, where they can live the more solemn life they've always wanted.
Firth and Blunt are both gifted character actors, with Firth winning an Oscar for his beautiful portrayal of King George IV on The King's Speech and Blunt coming off several great comedies last year with the directing likes of Judd Apatow and Lynn Shelton. Their chemistry and breezy dialog exchanges are the faint, weakening glue holding the film together before it crumbles. Arthur Newman's serious problem is its redundant scenes of self-discovery and disregarding ones' personal life for the benefit of having a cleaner, fresher slate. This concept hooks better as just that - a concept that comes up over drinks, dinner, or a nice long walk down the street. Not a ninety-three minute film with the profound qualities of a pamphlet.
Now, nearly every idea could make a great film, depending on the way a director, writer, actor, and cinematographer choose to handle the material. I have no doubt that Arthur Newman could've been a terrific film if taken with a fresher, more intriguing direction. The one present here gives every interesting event a "been-there-done-that" quality. Consider the scene when Arthur attempts to save the life of Michaela. This scene should be gripping and terrifying, but it winds up falling completely flat thanks to the flat direction taken by Dante Ariola.
Arthur Newman is a wholesome parable at least in the regard that it tells the story with convincing performances and a touch of realism. However, this does not excuse the bland writing and extraordinarily brave premise made turned more into a pedestrian-piece of fiction. Seeing Firth go slumming could definitely be a great thing in the future, but he best choose to slum in places where there is a need for more than a willing actor.
Starring: Colin Firth and Emily Blunt. Directed by: Dante Ariola.
- Oct 29, 2013