SHAKESPEARE by Bill Bryson (Harper Press, 2007)
Do we really need another book about William Shakespeare? The answer is, of course, a resounding ‘NO’.
In fairness, Bill Bryson is fully cognizant of this fact. He is honest enough to admit that this book contains not so much his own opinions “but is instead about what I learned of William Shakespeare from people who have spent a lifetime studying and thinking about him”.
Bryson makes the accurate observation that the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon is “not so much a historical figure as an academic obsession”.
He is in his element when debunking some of the unsubstantiated claims the so-called ‘experts’ have made in an attempt to uncover the man behind the myth. Continue reading
ONE DAY directed by Lone Scherfig (UK, 2011)
I loved David Nicholls’ novel and thought that a movie version would only work if they got the casting for the main characters right. I was wrong.
This is a rare instance where the actors are extremely well chosen but, even so, the story just doesn’t translate well to the big screen.
The plot device of jumping from year to year where we learn only about what happens on each successive St Swithen’s Day (15th July), is one that works well on the page but feels overly constrictive in cinematic terms.
Emma and Dexter pass years from 1988 onwards platonically and the question of will they or won’t they become more than just good friends keeps you hooked. It’s hard to not feel cheated that when they do actually do get it on, this occurs off camera i.e. not on the 15th July. Continue reading
Anne Hathaway - a revelation.
You shouldn’t judge a movie by its title. ‘Rachel Getting Married’ sounds like a dumbed down feel good movie until you see that the director is Jonathan Demme. Not only has Demme directed top rate music movies with Talking Heads and Neil Young, he’s also got an impressive record of intelligent blockbusters like Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs. You wouldn’t expect him to turn in a superficial comedy and fortunately he hasn’t.
As the title indicates, the plot is built around the wedding of Rachel. She’s actually tying the knot with the lead singer of TV On The Radio (Sidney is played by Tunde Adebimpe) and has an eclectic guest list that includes quirky live folk singing from Robyn Hitchcock , samba rhythms from Cyro Baptista & Beat The Donkey, reggae from Congo Sister Carol East and a Middle Eastern band headed by Zafer Tawil. It’s a very funky gathering but the spanner in the works is her sister Kym who has been given leave of absence from rehab to attend the ceremony.
In this role Anne Hathaway is a revelation. I would never have imagined her delicate beauty in so harsh a role but her character is totally convincing. You feel sympathy for her without ever forgetting what a pain in the ass she is.
Demme, has described how he wanted to create an ‘off formula’ movie in the style of independent films he admires rather than sticking to the predictable mainstream narrative structure. The result has strong echoes of movie maverick Robert Altman for the way many scenes don’t really have a well defined beginning or ending but just happen. Apparently actors played out their roles, often using ad libbed dialogue, without knowing where the camera was or what was going to make it to the final cut. It could have been a completer shambles but the movie has a real spontaneity about it.
It does have feel good ending of sorts but without the Hollywood schmultz. Enough is left ambiguous as evidence that this is a film with balls and brains.