Category Archives: Melodrama

La La Land

What Dreams May Come

As soon as that first trailer hit 1.10 minutes and that flute starts rolling “roop roop roop flooop roop…” and shortly followed by those bumping horns “bah bah bah baaah bah, bah bah bah baaah bah” my spine tingled.

If this energising, inspiring and uplifting music is representative of the film then fuck yeah this is going to be great!

Musicals are, you know, OK… but writer/director Damien Chazelle’s first film (Whiplash) showed such reverence for the highest calibre of musical artistry and by wrapping it in a compelling story he managed to explain why such musical talent is important so I had really high hopes for La La Land. This will not just be a story of whoever X-Factor has farted out in season 39.

I guess I came into La La Land with different hopes to those who have been gushing about it because I would take Whiplash over La La Land.

I loved the moments in which the film lingers on dope musicians being dope musicians. This is exactly what I wanted from the film and sent me day-dreaming of supping bourbon in a smokey jazz club or sitting in on a jam session because the passion for talented musicians is once again on full display.

I also loved the dream sequences and how seamlessly they blended in to the films narrative without feeling like a generic cheesy musical.

In fact dreaming is the film’s dichotomy. We see Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) struggling to align and achieve their dreams. They both want to be together but Seb, a realist, wants to own a pure Jazz club and Mia, an optimist and dreamer, wants to become a famous actress.

These incompatibilities are a reflection of ourselves. We all struggle to spin plates the plates we have let alone adding that really cool gold-edged plate to the mix!

What do we sacrifice to get what we want? For me; this blog is a type of therapy but you know… life! It get’s in the way sometimes and my writing suffers, other times it’s climbing, running, learning french, personal sanity or personal fucking hygiene that falls behind!

This realisation that only one or two of our dreams are ever truly attainable (if that!) provides a solid backbone to the story but to me it also exposes the film’s flaws.

I found La La Land loosing a lot its mojo towards the middle of the film as the songs became more melancholic and the focus shifting from sweetness of love, music and life to the bitterness of a cold break up.

I fully admit that’s just me wanting more electric music and less emotional baggage but I also noticed the dance scenes in the middle of the film pales in comparison to “Another Sunny Day” or “Someone in the Crowd” at the start of the film.

The mid film dance scenes couldn’t hold up partly because Ryan Gosling was not a great dancer. He looked good – not that it’s hard for Gosling right?! – but he is no Gene Kelly.

Keep an eye out for the early scenes though. You’ll get a few minutes in to and think “hang on, haven’t cut away once yet!” It’s audacious amid a modern Hollywood which seems to believe that more edits mean more bums on seats.

La La Land is a great film. It really is. It’s the best romance film I’ve ever seen but I was just dreaming it was something else.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ A couple of cracking songs
+ Incredible one take dance scenes
+ A solid, bittersweet story


– Kinda sags in the middle
– More of a love story
– Ryan Gosling as a dancer

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The Danish Girl

Coping Gay Men in Copenhagen

If I was to take a wild guess at what percentage of people truly know what it’s like to believe they are the wrong gender; I would estimate less than 5%. Sod it, let’s say it’s exactly 5% for the sake of argument.

I consider myself to be pretty firmly in the other 95%. I don’t know how it feels to be trapped in your own body and I have no desire to be a different gender no matter how cool it would be to have boobs, real boobs, not my flabby man ones!

What I need and what I think 95% of people need from The Danish Girl is something relateable, something to latch on to that answers the golden question: why. Perhaps this is portrayed as an itch you just can’t scratch or some sort of unquenchable obsession or addiction that lives with you every second of every hour.

No matter how this explanation is provided I need it spelled out so simply that even a brain-damaged rock troll could understand it. I need a really good, thought-provoking, script.

What I don’t need is a snivelling performance where the main character looks about to cry at any second; it’s the sort of look a baby gives you when they fall over and don’t know whether to weep or to continue on their mission to smear jam on the TV.

I suppose Redmayne has to be praised for an unwavering physical performance where he even bears all in front of the camera. I hate to use this word but it is a ‘brave’ performance and nothing proves this more than a scene that involves him tucking back his tackle to make a man-gina.

To me though, this became quickly irrelevant thanks to his role being wildly over-acted and the delivery of lines often being so wet they could be used to put out forest fires.

Redmayne isn’t helped by the script that provides very little contextual insight into the mind a trans-gender person and the turmoil that they must be going through ESPECIALLY when the person in question is the first person to attempt sex reassignment surgery.

Instead of being what could have been a vital study of the human psyche the script potters down melodrama road choosing instead to focus on the breakdown of a couple’s marriage to the background of gender politics. Important insights end up being reduced to hollow statements along the lines of “I need my husband back” and “I can’t do that”.

Although the film misses an opportunity it does start promisingly with Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) posing as Lili – his transsexual alter ego – for his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) and then ultimately coming to terms with the realisation that he enjoys cross dressing. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Einar is becoming more obsessive about cross-dressing and even starts to find fancy with the male gender.

As we near the end of the film it becomes clear that Einar has always had these sexual leanings yet almost every moment of the film until this point has told you otherwise. The first half of the film is a coming-of-age or rather a coming-of-gender film only to be written off by his desire to be a woman supposedly existing ever since he was a child.

I can’t understand why Einar’s psyche wasn’t explored further, especially since the visual aspect doesn’t shy away from what is hard to watch, yet the dialogue is a dainty as Lili.

Perhaps The Danish Girl stays true to the book of the same name but the more I watched the more I found myself empathising with Einar even less than I do with grated carrot.

By the end of the film Einer has the first of his two operations and the film draws neatly to a close after an hour and a half. At least that’s what should have happened. In reality you are dragged along for another, punishing, final 30 minutes of drudgery where the film outstays it’s welcome.

It’s not even possible to take much joy from the early 1900s Copenhagen setting because there is only ever 1 main street that is shown, the rest of it being situated indoors but hey, at least the costume department did a great job of selling you on the time period.

Ironically, like Einar, this film is one thing but should have been another. It’s a soppy melodrama that should have been a hard psychological study. It’s a story of marriage rather than a story of gender and Redmayne overshadows his own physical performance with himself… Simply by being a man trying too hard to be a woman.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Brave performance
+ Decent costume design

– Overacted
– Too Long
Difficult to relate to the characters

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Suffragette

Rights, Camera, Faction

As a male I am all too aware that women are always right. Even when they believe Ray Winstone’s name to be Ray Mears or claim that a scorpian is a lobster: women are ALWAYS right.

As a rational human I am amazed to find out that women have only had the vote (in the UK) since 1918 and that was only certain women. It was only 1928 that all women have had the right to vote. It is truly mind-boggling that it is such a recent event.

My Grandma was probably somewhere near the first generation born into Britain where voting was just the norm. She wouldn’t have had to fight for something that seems so basic by today’s standards yet there were people – not much older than her – who would have had to do just that.

I believe that everyone should vote. Even if it’s just to slap a big ol’ “None” across the ballot and a strike through next to all those muppets names. Even so I genuinely had no idea that the right to vote is known as Suffrage. It’s kind of ironic that through suffrage we often get to suffer egotistical idiots for at least 4 years. Anyway; the Suffragettes, as you can probably guess, refers to women who have to fight for their right to party… in a polling booth. The film Suffragette is a based on a true story following exactly this plight.

The main focus of the film is on Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) who is an unassuming worker at a cleaning workhouse. Maud has no interest in being a suffragette until she crosses paths with Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff). From here on she becomes more politically active and more radicalised.

The film charts the journey of her changing beliefs and morals and how these start to shape her own world simply by the consequences of her actions.

She looses her job, her husband, her home and her only child but with the exception of her child none of these are dramatised to good effect. She finds a new job working at the headquarters for the women’s vote campaign, her husband and home is replaced by a family of suffragettes so I felt emotionally detached from her struggle.

Even the loss of her child is underplayed. When the child is sent to a foster home Maud tells her child to always remember his mother’s name. Now, given she is the lead character and this is based on true events you would expect a flash card before the credits to say Maud Never saw here son again or something to that effect. Nope. Nothing. How about the last scene showing her child grown up being proud of his real mother. Nope. Nothing.

What we do get to see at the end of the film is a real film clip from a procession that was made for one of the suffragettes. This isn’t for Maud though. Instead the procession is for Maggie Miller (Grace Stottor) who plays a bit part for 80% of the film. It’s so bizarre that we don’t get to know more about her character and yet here she is at the end of the film as a key character?!

The best character for me though was Edith Ellen (Helena Bonham Carter) who works at a local pharmacy and is a key figure in the women’s rights movement. Edith is clever and quietly confident. She wears the trousers in her marriage not through being domineering but by earning the respect of her husband and therefore his sympathy and endless loyalty to her cause.

Possibly my favourite aspect of the film is its location. There are lots of old terraces and old Victorian factory buildings that really bring the turn off the century to life. There is one shot particular of some washing strung up between buildings that I would have been chuffed to have i taken as a photograph.

The worst part however was how it shies away from showing any violence. I understand that this is a film and at an older audience but with a lack of emotional attachment I think a bit odd shock value would have worked well.

It’s a shame that this film doesn’t feel as important as it’s subject matter. Although it has a number of things that it does well I just didn’t find it as gripping or dramatic as I had hoped which left me emotionally cold. I am, of course, wrong on my opinion here though as the woman next to me in the cinema was crying like a baby and as we know; women are never wrong!

 

Go See

  • For educational value
  • Excellent setting
  • Helena Bonham Carter

Avoid

  • Under dramatised
  • Pulls it’s punches when dealing with violence
  • Confusing characters

Overall

3-stars

Mr. Holmes

And The Case Of The Forgotten Memory

I wanted to see Mr. Holmes primarily because of Ian McKellen. Let’s face it he makes an imposing Magneto in X-Men and then there is of course Gandalf. Sure these are only two roles but with a voice like that who wouldn’t want to see more of this man, right?!

Well I wasn’t let down. Ian McKellen plays a great version of Sherlock, even if it’s not the Sherlock that you particularly want. This version of Sherlock starts out as a grumpy old man full of cynicism and scorn at life in general. There was a part of me that instantly thought that Ian McKellen is ‘on his way out’ – so convincing is his fragile portrayal of a 93 year old Sherlock. Seeing a spritely 60 year old version of Sherlock instantly allayed those concerns – so convincing is his portrayal of his younger self.

The fantastic acting doesn’t just stop with McKellen though. Laura Linney puts in a great performance as Sherlock’s housemaid and pseudo-nurse Mrs Munro. Her performance is actually eclipsed by Milo Parker who plays Linney’s son Jack. Jack is arguably your typical young boy full of intrigue and curiosity. It’s this curiosity and an insistence to mimic Mr Holmes’ logical prowess that brings the old man and the young boy together. You can see McKellen’s treatment of Jack go from a mild irritance to a friend who is happy to share in-jokes at the expense of Mrs Munro through to a doting grandfather figure.

Whilst this development of relationships plays out really well the case that Holmes is trying to crack isn’t a typical mystery. You could argue that this is to the benefit of the film and it certainly is an interesting direction to take the plot but for hardened fans of Sherlock I wonder if the limited amount of puzzle solving and daisy chaining of clues will work against the film.

The reason I say this is because the case that Sherlock is trying to crack is his last case before he retired to the countryside. It’s a case that is already solved but the problem is he doesn’t remember how or why. This is all set in motion by the death of his dear friend Watson who has canonised Sherlock in a series of exaggerated novels. Before Sherlock dies he wants to write his own account of who he is by rebuffing some of the misconceptions, such as he smokes a pipe, and explain why he left his profession; his final case in which he can’t shake the feeling that he has somehow missed a crucial part of the puzzle. He must have gotten the case wrong otherwise why quit?

This journey of remembrance plays out using the same tropes of a typical murder mystery with flashbacks to crucial parts of the case and lingering shots of Holmes analysing items. Eventually these clues start coming together like completing a jigsaw puzzle: the answer is on the box in front of you but you still need to find the right pieces to put together before it makes any sense.

The mysterious build up kept me guessing throughout the film but, like a jigsaw puzzle, you might find it tests your patience as most of the pacing is really quite slow. I guess that’s a bit of a back-handed insult. It’s like saying you’re useless because you finish your work too quickly because really, saying the film is slow is about as damning a piece of criticism as I can spout for Mr. Holmes.

So praises nearly all round for Mr. Holmes yet it’s not a film that I would recommend that you rush out and see. It doesn’t have that brisk pacing to leave you feeling energised after watching the movie and the concept of an old man losing his memory doesn’t scream a hour or two of entertaining viewing but from what I can deduce it is undoubtedly a good film with excellent performances and superb character building.

Go See

  • Great acting
  • Interesting twist on the normal Sherlock icon
  • A beautiful sadness

Avoid

  • A bit slow
  • Not enough Holmes in Holmes

Overall

4-stars