October 8, 2016
Greetings again from the darkness. The late 1970’s in London were filled with political, social and labor discontent. Director Derrick Borte (The Joneses, 2009) and writer Matt Brown (The Man Who Knew Infinity, 2015) use this backdrop, along with some cutting edge music of the era, to tell a coming-of-age story that is enjoyable despite its predictability.
Daniel Huttlestone (Into the Woods) plays 15 year old Shay (not Che) who carries the burden of babysitting for his sister Alice (Anya McKenna-Bruce) and cooking for his two-job dad Nick (Dougray Scott), as he dreams of meeting up with his free-spirited mom Sandrine (Natascha McElhone) who lives a bohemian lifestyle in London. Things start to change for Shay once he receives a package from his mom … his first taste of music from The Clash.
Soon enough, Shay finds himself chatting it up on a commuter train with wild girl Vivian (Nell Williams), who generously shares her own music from The Clash, as well as some insight into the band, and even a ticket to their next concert. After the best night of Shay’s life, a work accident puts his dad in the hospital, requiring the son to take on even more responsibility.
More than a coming of age story, this is what I call “the teenage awakening”. Once the world starts opening up to Shay, he begins to question everything. A serendipitous night in the clink with Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) brings some surprisingly grounded philosophy and guidance. “Some people just burn bright” is a spot-on description of Shay’s mom and a lesson to Shay that parents are people too.
The movie belongs to Huttlestone, who bounces between responsible young man, bullied teen, and anti-establishment rebel. Ms. Williams is delightful in her role, and JRM brings the necessary hard edge to Strummer. Director Borte has a really nice eye for scenes, but probably was a bit too stingy with Clash tunes. The timing for the film is a bit unfortunate, as it’s released in the same year as the similar but superior Sing Street. Still it’s an enjoyable little film with enough philosophy sprinkled in that we don’t even mind the predictable ending with “I Fought the Law” carrying us to closing credits.
watch the trailer:
December 2, 2011
Greetings again from the darkness. I was initially ambivalent on seeing a movie about Marilyn Monroe making a movie. My twisted thinking was that I have already seen the actual film The Prince and the Showgirl, and this particular story is based on a book by Colin Clark who claims to have had a connection/fling with Marilyn during the production phase of the film. Since I had always doubted Clark’s claim, it wasn’t until early reviews of Michelle Williams‘ performance hit Twitter that I started to get interested.
For an actor, playing Marilyn Monroe must be similar to playing Elvis. Everyone on earth knows what the real deal looks and sounds like. What is interesting about this film is that it is chock-full of actors playing well known people. In addition to Williams/Monroe, we get Eddie Redmayne as Colin, Kenneth Branagh as Sir Lawrence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivia Leigh (Olivier’s wife), Toby Jones as Arthur Jacobs, Dominic Cooper as Milton Greene, Karl Moffat as DP Jack Cardiff, Dame Judi Dench playing Dame Sybil Thorndyke, Zoe Wannamaker playing Paula Strasberg (Monroe’s acting coach), and Dougray Scott as Arthur Miller (the famous writer and Monroe’s husband at the time).
Michelle Williams dominates the film just as Monroe would have. She mimics the iconic movements, but best succeeds in capturing the essence of Marilyn. History states that Olivier was very impatient with Marilyn and struggled with her irregular schedule and “method” approach to acting (which he abhorred). It is little wonder that Marilyn struggled so with her first and only film outside of the U.S. Many have an image of Ms. Monroe as a ditsy blonde, but there are a couple of well-documented autobiographies that show a pretty shrewd business person and one very aware of her marketable and valuable public image.
As for the film, it rates a couple of ticks higher thanks to the outstanding performances of both Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh. If not for them, it would be little more than a TV movie. Speaking of, this is the first feature film for director Simon Curtis, whose previous work has been seen on television. Personally, I would have preferred a movie that focused on either the making of The Prince and the Showgirl or a view of the human side of Marilyn. Here, we get a shortage of each.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you want to see Michelle Williams’ beautiful performance as Marilyn (she is likely to get an Oscar nom)
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are looking for any real insight into what Marilyn was like as a real person (this one just skims the surface)
watch the trailer: