Lina Lamont

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

Archive for the tag “Felicity Jones”

The Theory of Everything

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 8th February 2015

A biopic of science’s most famous electronic voice may initially prompt cries of “awards-bait!” but The Theory of Everything rightly deserves all its nominations (it’s up for five Oscars, having already won Best Actor and Musical Score at the Golden Globes).

Adapted by New Zealander Anthony McCarten from Jane Hawking’s book, the film recounts the deep commitment of a love affair which was ignited at Cambridge University in 1963, shortly before Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given two years to live.

It’s no spoiler to say that Hawking exceeded this life expectancy and went on to world renown in physics and cosmology. Viewers may be less aware, however, of his personal achievements and the extraordinary dedication of his wife.

In a sensational performance by young British actor Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables), Hawking’s gradual physical decline is gut-wrenching and powerfully conveyed.

Redmayne’s nuanced transformation guarantees him a second gong this month (interestingly, Benedict Cumberbatch pioneered the onscreen personification of Hawking in the 2004 television movie Hawking, a role which set him on his trajectory to superstardom. Redmayne may be thanking his lucky stars that Cumberbatch wasn’t cast in this).

As Jane, the lovely, God-fearing arts student who wins the atheist physicist’s heart, Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman) proves yet again a natural talent for inveigling not just her co-star but the audience, too – the couple’s chemistry is in their eye contact (captured by the beautiful photography of Benoit Delhomme, who also shot The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and romantic drama One Day) rather than physical fumblings, and Jones brings grace and credibility to her role.

She is up for a slightly more surprising Best Actress award, and though she is likely to lose to the powerhouse that is Julianne Moore, Jones’ nomination is a tribute to her restrained dignity.

It’s hard to know who to admire more: Jones, or the real-life Jane who must have been an absolute trouper. Lighthearted and often witty, the narrative moves apace through time towards present day.

Wisely realising you don’t need to get flash with the structure, director James Marsh, whose gripping documentary Man on Wire is a must-rent, has crafted a simply told love story into a fascinating slice of an extraordinary life.

Advertisements

The Invisible Woman

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 20th April 2014

The great actor and now often-times director, Ralph Fiennes, nearly burst a blood vessel playing Coriolanus, his previous effort at taking the lead role as well as running the show. In The Invisible Woman Fiennes tackles another great literary hero, Charles Dickens, and once again delivers a compelling performance while exercising a restraint seldom seen by stars-who-direct.

Though everyone knows his name, few may know that Dickens’ private life battled a few best and worst times of its own. Ostensibly happily married and father to a herd, Dickens’ eye was apparently turned by a young actress he encountered during a local theatre production (the play written, incidentally, by his mate Wilkie Collins, played predictably but delightfully by the irrepressible Tom Hollander). Dickens takes young Nelly Ternan into his heart under the watchful eye of her mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), but naturally the path to this sort of forbidden love cannot run smoothly.

It’s a love story template we know well, but thankfully Fiennes demands excellent work from his cast who deliver smooth dialogue and nuanced performances enhanced by the pretty costume design and some beautiful photography. As young Nelly, Felicity Jones (who worked with Fiennes in Cemetery Junction) shows she has blossomed into an accomplished actress, adept at playing the ingénue as well as the tortured older soul whose reminiscences form the basis of the story.

Above all, there is something fascinating about seeing a household name from the 1850s as he was in real-life – mobbed at the races like a modern-day celebrity; cooed over by readers who debate the detail of his greatest works; breaking social conventions by fraternising with unmarried couples. With universally strong performances propelled through a pacy narrative, The Invisible Woman should not be allowed to slip away unseen.

Hysteria

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 2nd September 2012

Delicate opening credits and a tinkly soundtrack suggest you’re about to embark on a jolly hockeysticks kind of Merchant Ivory production. It’s London in the 1880s – all poor-houses, horse-drawn carriages and animal muck in the streets, and a time when any woman who spoke out with passion or expressed discontent was branded “hysterical”. Phrenology (that is, judging a person’s character by the shape of their skull) was in, while germ-theory was considered poppycock.

Hard at work in his medical practice, Jonathan Pryce’s Dr Dalrymple makes an excellent living treating these hysterics – bored, neglected, middle-class housewives who arrive weekly with a twinkle in their eye, ready to be relieved of their mental and emotional ailments in a manner that will surprise any audience member who hasn’t read the film poster. Because Hysteria is in fact the based-pretty-much-on-fact story of the invention of the vibrator.

Hugh Dancy (recently in Martha Marcy May Marlene and clearly on the up as he is soon to play the lead criminal profiler in the US TV series of Hannibal) is a young doctor with a mild bout of social conscience who nonetheless enjoys the fiscal trappings of working to “cure” these women. Hugh Grant he’s not, and though this story is all about delivering “a satisfactory paroxysm”, Dancy’s performance is surprisingly limp. As the naive Mortimer Granville he is taken under the senior doctor’s wing and into his home, where Granville meets the two very different daughters played by Felicity Jones (you’ve seen her face even if you don’t know her name) and Maggie Gyllenhaal, sporting a flawless Emma Thompson impression and acquitting herself brilliantly.

Throw in a flamboyant Rupert Everett and a supporting cast of familiar faces, this is a lively story, well-told, but let down overall by an over-obvious script. That said, there are enough Meg Ryan moments to garner laughs, and while not the most stimulating adaptation of an otherwise fascinating medical development, the film is sure to deliver a buzz.

Like Crazy

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 29th January 2012

How far should you go to be with The One who’s not around versus the Good Enough who’s present? This is the question tacitly posed in Like Crazy, the story of a British exchange student who falls for an American boy and the perils of seeking a life together.

Chalet Girl‘s Felicity Jones is terrific, mature all of a sudden, as Anna, while Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the Star Trek prequel) is convincing as the young man who finds he’s in love before he’s ready for the commitment required to keep that ardour alive. With a lot of to-ing and fro-ing across the Atlantic, Anna and Jacob fight, split up, try to shake one another, try again, and generally keep us guessing as to how things will end up. To some extent the fickle action undermines any attempt to present more than a cursory look at the depth of love. What makes it work, however, is the naturalistic, unhysterical acting (the conflicts are authentically heartbreaking), and the realistically plotted script.

It’s not as potentially draining as it sounds, largely thanks to entertaining performances from Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead as Anna’s parents, though there’s too little screen time for the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar-nominated for Winter’s Bone).

Chalet Girl

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 25th September 2011

In another variation on the traditional rom-com theme – girl-from-wrong-side-of-tracks meets boy-with-dosh – Chalet Girl  is an exercise in wish fulfilment if you fancy life on the Austrian ski slopes and 200 euro tips.

Felicity Jones (who most won’t remember from Cemetery Junction) plays the feisty Kim, who works in a hamburger joint in North London before taking a job in a ski chalet to support her widowed father (a subtly played Bill Bailey). We know she’s feisty because Kim doesn’t take any stick from anyone – not her catty fellow chalet girl Georgie, not the sleazy rich men who visit the lodge – and she knows the difference between sarcasm and irony.

Playing the Rochester to her Jane Eyre is rich kid Jonny. There is a certain satisfaction in seeing Gossip Girl‘s Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) speaking in his normal voice and actually cracking a smile. But first, Kim has to deal with some difficult memories and transfer her champion skateboarding skills to the slopes.

Can she make it? It’s actually hard not to care – for despite the by-numbers plot, over-reliance on Bill Nighy and the misjudged return of Brooke Shields, Kim’s story is fun, and stupid, and the snow looks awesome.  You go, girl!

Post Navigation