Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Anne Hathaway”

The Intern

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 27th September 2015

It’s a sad fact that casting Robert De Niro in a starring role nowadays does not guarantee a great film. With the exception of Limitless and Silver Linings Playbook, the last decade has seen the one-time legend in plenty of duff, rent-paying parts.

So teaming him up with the polarising Anne Hathaway (Disclosure: I like her) in a purported comedy about a retired businessman who goes to work for a young female entrepreneur doesn’t necessarily bode well.

Thankfully, under the pen and rein of long-time Hollywood writer and director, Nancy Meyers, The Intern proves to be a surprisingly endearing, if unsubstantial, tale.

Ben Whittaker is a widower of 70, whose days have been filled with tai chi, language classes and travelling to fill the void left by his departed wife. He enters the Senior Intern programme at a hugely successful internet start-up run by the harried but pleasant Jules Ostin. She thinks she doesn’t need his help, but he’s got heaps to teach all the other young people, so Ben is rapidly subsumed into the business and eventually becomes Jules’ right-hand man.

Meyers does interpersonal truths well but always with a light touch, as in The Holiday, It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give – each a prime example of her knack for writing strong female roles and providing something for the more mature actor. The capacity for “odd couple” comedy here is not exploited (though the script delivers a few Laugh-Out-Louds) but De Niro and Hathaway’s chemistry is sweet, and although the plot’s conflict exists outside of their relationship, we get plenty of scenes where two very nice people speak realistic, heartfelt lines about true issues.

Neither mould-breaking nor objectionable, rather like its titular character, The Intern doesn’t try too hard and thus succeeds.

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Interstellar

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 9th November 2014

Last summer, I picked Interstellar as one of five movies to get excited about in 2014. I wasn’t being particularly prescient – the clues are in the director (Christopher Nolan), the lead actors (recent Oscar winners but also frequent genre-busters Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway – come on, she sang live in Les Miserables!) and support provided by the likes of Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life, Zero Dark Thirty). Even my growing Michael Caine fatigue (he’s one of Nolan’s regulars) couldn’t ruin the anticipation.

Furthermore, following last year’s magnificent Gravity, surely no self-respecting director would ever again dare put out mediocre sci-fi. The webosphere has long been heralding Interstellar for its “accurate science” and its commitment to Kubrick-quality filmmaking. So there was much to get excited about.

Happily, thanks to a sophisticated and involved story co-written by Nolan himself and his brother Jonathan (who wrote the Dark Knight films and The Prestige) we are carried along effortlessly in an epic tale that pits McConaughey against that age-old problem of saving the world. Or rather, finding somewhere for mankind to move to once we’ve messed up our planet beyond repair.

It’s the end of the world as the environmentalists know it, and in this undisclosed future time period we are in desperate need of food. Stricken by dust storms which have ruined crops and are slowly destroying human respiration, McConaughey plays Cooper, a widowed father of two who used to pilot but is now a farmer. When events offer him the chance to reach for the stars once more, that old utilitarian chestnut of family versus humanity rears its head. It’s no spoiler to say Cooper joins a team of scientists to tackle the space-time continuum and go where no man has returned from before, in search of a future home.

With a running time of just under three hours, Interstellar must do a lot to live up to its hype – even in the stunning presentation provided by an Imax cinema (if you have one near you, it’s imperative you go), that’s a big ask for even the keenest viewer. Well, if you like your music loud and your picture vast and immersive, it’ll be worth every minute. Even a drive through a cornfield is exhilarating, and that’s just in the first thirty minutes, during which time the setting and set-up evokes an M. Night Shyamalan-like conceit.

Then, as soon as they’re Saturn-bound, the oohs and aahs are provoked by massive seascapes and imagined worlds that are at once harsh and beautiful. Space looks as magnificent as it did in Gravity, and the soundtrack (a curiously old-fashioned beast created by a fabulous cacophony of organ music) takes us back to Kubrick and other old masters, particularly when the photography evokes peaceful balletic moments in between the scenes of urgency and danger.

For those concerned with credibility, rest assured the science sounds sensible and yet is also accessible – apparently ground was broken during the making of the film in terms of how wormholes might be rendered visually, and the result is simply stunning. Jonathan Nolan studied relativity as he wrote the script, and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne acted as consultant on the film. So this is serious stuff.

Clearly dedicated to producing a smart, philosophical blockbuster, Nolan mixes themes of loneliness, family loyalty and self-sacrifice with poetry and classical music. He even attempts to convince us that “love transcends time and space”, so it’s perhaps inevitable that as Cooper falls down the wormhole into a multi-dimensional world, some viewers’ capacity for narrative convenience and pseudo-spirituality may be tested.

But overall, Interstellar is as mind-blowing and affecting as we had hoped, and the running time is a walk in the park. Once again, Nolan has taken a huge idea and run with it. It’s certainly worth the chase.

Film review LES MISERABLES

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 6th January 2013

If you’re already a fan of hearing the people sing the songs of angry men, you’ll be eagerly awaiting the release of Tom Hooper’s (Oscar-winning director of The King’s Speech) cinematic rendition of the hugely popular stage musical. It answers the question “Can one successfully bring theatre to the big screen?” and drops the guillotine on any qualms about the casting of actors-before-singers Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.

Victor Hugo surely never imagined his 1862 French historical novel about revolution, grace and impoverished death would be set to song, but ever since the mid-80s we have been flocking to West End productions, singing along to the CD, and performing the musical numbers at school. (There have been umpteen film versions of the book, but apart from concert movies, this is the first film of the musical.)  

The story starts with Jackman’s Jean Valjean being released from 19 years’ imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread, and Inspector Javert (a typically earnest Crowe) is established as he who will hunt Valjean for the rest of the story. Valjean’s ensuing “rehabilitation” from prisoner to prominent townsman brings him into contact with the desperate Fantine (Hathaway, whose performance of signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” is a tour de force) and later Fantine’s daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried from Mamma Mia whose singing voice, though tuneful, unfortunately evokes the Chipmunks).

The actors sang live on set rather than pre-recording and then lip-syncing, and Hooper has employed a more theatrical method of filming many of the core numbers in one long shot, which is impressive indeed as Eponine sings with a broken heart and Fantine teeters on the brink of death without the camera cutting away.  

Alleviating the bleakness are Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the fetid, dishonest Master and Mistress of the House. The young children are terrific, the chorus of young men at the barricades sing like a choir of baritone angels, and the biggest surprise of all is the extremely accomplished Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) as Marius.  

Reminiscent of Moulin Rouge in its style and bombast but without the twinkle in its eye, this is a faithful adaptation with only a few shifts in dialogue and one new song (created specially by the original composer). Somehow the medium of film makes the narrative much clearer, a blessing considering the film’s length, its only inescapable downside. However, at the end of the day it’s a jolly good show.

One Day

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 23rd October 2011

Anne Hathaway dons Doc Marten boots and a northern English accent and Jim Sturgess (from 21 and the Beatles music movie Across the Universe) goes a bit posh, to play Emma and Dexter – two friends whose relationship spans two decades. We first meet them at their graduation on July 15, 1988, and then the story moves apace as we see them on that day every year thereafter, in various states of romance, employment and happiness.

This is the eagerly awaited film adaptation of a best-selling, much-loved novel, and the predominantly 30-something female target audience will be rightly apprehensive about whether the silver screen can do it justice.

Director Lone Scherfig hit the jackpot with 2009’s An Education, and she brings a similar touch to the gentle characterisation of Em and Dex, shooting the whole story with a slightly blue-tinged softness and placing them in nondescript grey London streets and soulless nightclubs. Hathaway has had mixed reviews (mostly for her accent, which is actually pretty good) but she is convincingly frumpy, lamenting early on that sex usually leaves her “laughing or weeping” but that she’s “looking for something in between”. As her character grows out of Harry Potter glasses and frizzy hair, she blossoms credibly into an every-girl swan. As Dexter, Sturgess has the burden of an often unsympathetic character, but despite playing it a bit too large and leery in moments, he somehow still manages to make us care.

Fine actors like Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott are unnecessarily weighty for their supporting roles, but Rafe Spall (son of Timothy) is a stand-out for his ability to imbue the dopey Ian with a truthful pathos, despite his intended role as clown.

At times One Day is lightweight, even formulaic in its plotting, but the characters are impressively engaging as Sturgess and Hathaway are suitably comfortable with one another. Propagating a key message that happiness waits for no man, it may give some viewers pause for thought and a prompt for action.

Love and Other Drugs

Just what the doctor ordered

Jerry Maguire gets a modern updating (and spares us Tom Cruise) in this tale of an ambitious young pharmaceutical rep who realises what’s actually important in life when he falls for a beautiful woman with a debilitating disease.  Yup – just like it said in the trailer.

Jake Gyllenhaal (so sincerely charming and outrageously handsome that I would buy Viagra off him out of his car boot in an abandoned carpark) provides the perfect dosage of sleazy-but-vulnerable to cure Anne Hathaway’s scepticism that her early-onset Parkinson’s will prevent anyone from caring for her.  Meanwhile, we get to see the dirty underbelly of the medical profession, reassert our assumptions that pharmaceutical companies are simply evil, and watch a lot of practically-nude sex enjoyed by our perfectly pH-balanced young leads.

The overarching story isn’t new, though Hathaway handles her character’s Parkinson’s with great sensitivity having apparently researched the disease and spoken to sufferers.  Rather than using it as a prop, the condition itself is treated as a supporting character of sorts when Maggie attends a meeting and hears from others experiencing the symptoms, in what is the most moving scene in the film.  There are shades of Up in the Air in Gyllenhaal’s Jamie’s cavalier attitude to women and his evident aptitude in a sales role (delivering punchy, complicated dialogue that is laden with medical terminology, like some sort of Rainman).  Like a Clooney-in-training, Jamie is to learn the error of his slutty (sorry – what’s the appropriate male term? studly?) ways when the mutually-agreed “just sex” becomes something altogether more emotional for him.

On the one hand, this is a typical Hollywood rom-com (albeit more rom than com – although we have to endure the now seemingly obligatory fat-curly-haired-oddball-sidekick bumbling his way through embarassing scenarios, in order to hammer home just how cool and handsome Jamie is in comparison – or perhaps to provide light relief from the serious illness subplot).  However, the preponderance of semi-explicit sexual activity is more in keeping with an indie film along the lines of Hathaway’s brilliant Rachel Getting Married.  Similarly, the story is a fairly basic morality tale, which skims the bigger issues of corporate exploitation and pure greed, without really making eye contact.

Overall, it’s the believable chemistry between Jamie and Maggie (so much happier than in their previous pairing in Brokeback Mountain) that makes the film so watchable and largely forgivable, even if at the end you can’t help wondering whether you got the placebo rather than the real thing.

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