The DCH Blog
Florence Foster Jenkins - a pre-screening review - Wednesday 21st September 2016
Stephen Frears is making habit of dramatizing the lives of characterful women. Having scored hits with both Philomena Lee and Elizabeth Windsor, he has turned his attention to Florence Foster Jenkins, a very wealthy woman who used her money to showcase a truly terrible singing voice.
Billed as the true story of the world's worst singer, one might have expected Frears’s movie to be a merciless dissection of a rich socialite’s vanity projects. But aided by Nicholas Martin’s witty and insightful script, he has delivered a delightful and affectionate portrait of a woman that was possibly deluded, but harmlessly so, and who brought pleasure and fun to a country browbeaten by war. Meryl Streep’s comic timing is a revelation, managing to be simultaneously tragic and funny in a lead role that is tailor made for her. Lured out of retirement by Frears, Huge Grant brings a rare sensitivity to a role that could so easily have been a caricature, while Simon Helberg (in a role shockingly different from Howard of The Big Bang) steals every scene he is in.
This is economical storytelling at its best. Literate, zestful and packed with of characters too improbable for fiction, Frears has conjured up the perfect confection, crammed with period detail, gorgeous to look at and, most importantly, full of heart.
By David Vass
Eye in the Sky - a pre-screening review - Thursday 15th September 2016
Guy Hibbert wrote the screenplay for Eye in the Sky eight years ago, and in the time it’s taken to arrive on screen he’s watched his futuristic speculation turn into grounded reality. War really is now conducted on a telly, surrounded by as many politicians as soldiers, and all of them referring up when things get sticky.
Director Gavin Hood could have easily made a polemic condemnation of modern warfare’s unwillingness to physically engage, but instead he uses his ensemble cast to present clear and coherent arguments for every point of view. Out in the field, Barkhad Abdi is excellent as the closest character the film has to a hero, but notwithstanding his brilliantly staged action scenes, this is a film about ideas and people arguing about them. It is all the more compelling for it. Helen Mirren’s Colonel Powell is driven by uncompromising certainty that is nearly her undoing, while Monica Dolan’s cabinet minister is humane but ultimately ineffectual. Wedged between them is sanguine, war weary General Benson, a fittingly nuanced final performance from the late Alan Rickman.
So would you sacrifice an innocent life, if by doing so you might save the lives of countless more? It’s a question jurisprudence students get asked in the first week of their studies, and under the cloak of a taut, superbly paced thriller, one that Gavin Hood asks his audience. After seeing the film, you’ll be returning to this conundrum for days after.
By David Vass
Our Little Sister - a pre-screening review - Wednesday 7th September 2016
Based on Akimi Yoshida’s graphic novel Umimachi Diary, this enchanting film weaves together the stories of three sisters, living under one roof without the mother and father that deserted them. When they learn that their father has died, leaving behind a half-sister, the girls decide to take her under their collective wings.
Reminiscent of Tokyo Story, albeit a flip side, this is a movie about siblings dealing with the reality of disappointing parents.
The film has a touch of wonder about it, without ever tipping over into mawkish sentimentality. All four of the leads are superb, acting out distinct yet lovable archetypes with a grace and good humour that is infectious. Suzu Hirose, as the eponymous sister, lights up the screen whenever she appears, while Haruka Ayase is achingly good as the oldest sister who lost her childhood to surrogate motherhood.
Very little happens beyond a peek into the lives of the bank clerk, the nurse and the shop assistant as they learn how to live with their new sister. They laugh and squabble and talk about men and boys and eat fresh whitebait over rice with a glass of plum wine. Yet such is the skill with which each character is drawn, and then acted, that the depth and authenticity of this deceptively complex film creeps up on you, working its way into your affections in a way that will stay with you for days.
By David Vass