Grace of Monaco

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Dir: Olivier Dahan  Wri: Arash Amel  Pro: Arash Amel, Pierre-Ange Le Pogam  Ed: Oliver Gajen  DOP: Eric Gautier  CAST: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth, Frank Langella, Derek Jacobi

This preposterous, mind-numbingly boring account of the role Grace Kelly had in ensuring that Charles de Gaulle didn’t introduce taxes into Monaco arrives here in the wake of a deserved critical mauling at Cannes. Sadly, recalling Diana, the awfulness of the picture does not allow for fun, ironic enjoyment. Like that wretched film from last year, so bad it’s good this film definitely isn’t.

While an exploration of Grace Kelly in itself could have been interesting, the focus of how she nobly gave up her acting career so as to help her husband Prince Rainier III (Roth) protect all the poor princes of Monaco from having to pay taxes manages to be both jaw-droppingly misguided and also rigorously uninteresting. Why the filmmakers thought that this storyline would be of any interest to anybody and quite how they felt this alleged aspect of Kelly’s life as something noble and to be admired is so thoroughly beyond comprehension that one is left in a simply numb state. That the premise of a supposedly life-affirming biopic could be so misjudged would be offensive if it wasn’t so utterly stupid. This juxtaposition of bad politics and profound boredom is quite the achievement for director Olivier Dahan, who also made the over-rated Edith Piaf bio, La Vie en Rose.

The acting is largely unremarkable but not the type of terrible that could provoke any type of unintentional hilarity. Kidman, though definitely miscast, brings a dreary functionality to her Kelly. Tim Roth scowls, smokes and sighs his way through the film but he certainly avoids any accusations of campiness. In fact it appears that such is the low key nature of his performance that he’s hoping that if he just keeps his head down and doesn’t draw attention to himself people might forget he was ever in the film. I suspect Roth needn’t worry too much as it is unlikely that any viewers will be wanting to remember this mess once they are through enduring it.

At least Derek Jacobi seems to be having some fun, camping proceedings up a bit as a Count who – in one, of many, ludicrous sequences – goes about teaching Grace the correct ways to behave in Monaco. Generally, one is left feeling sympathy for talented performers such as Kidman and Roth being lumbered with such insipid material. The technical aspects of the film are for the most part equally nothing to write home about. The only genuinely good thing on show here is Eric Gautier’s lush, colourful cinematography.

Dahan himself appears bored at times. He takes to shaking the camera violently into the eyeballs and nostrils of Kidman in a few bizarre moments which, though unlikely to be confused with Jonathan Glazer’s lengthy Kidman close-up in Birth, do account for the closest thing to directorial inspiration one will encounter in this moronic film.

Avoid.

David Prendeville

16 (See IFCO for details)
115 mins

Grace of Monaco is released on 6th May 2014

Grace of Monaco – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Broken

DIR: Rufus NorrisWRI: Mark O’Rowe • PRO: Tally Garner, Bill Kenwright, Dixie Linder, Nick Marston   DOP: Rob Hardy   ED: Victoria Boydell  DES: Kave Quinn Cast: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear

 

Family drama piece Broken once again teams Irish screenwriter Mark O’ Rowe up with Cillian Murphy, who previously worked together on Intermission and Perrier’s Bounty. Although some of the humour of these past films is seen in Broken, Mark O’ Rowe’s talents as a drama screenwriter are really brought to the fore through this excellently told heart breaking story.

Broken is the story of a young girl, Skunk, who lives with her father and brother in a North London suburb. Young Skunk’s life changes after she witnesses a violent altercation in the safety of her residential street. This incident is the catalyst in the interlinking stories of three families who are dramatically affected by the repercussions of the event. We are weaved through their stories with O’ Rowe’s beautifully and wittily written script. He allows our sympathies to fall on each and every person in the film, who have all been affected by the different paths their lives have taken.

The performances of Murphy as Skunk’s teacher and her au pair’s boyfriend, Tim Roth as her father and Rory Kinnear as a volatile single father are subtle, real and sympathetic. However, it is the stand out performance of the young Skunk (Eloise Laurence) that grabs us by the heart strings and pulls us in. She gives a natural performance which we rarely see at such a young age and this holds the whole film together; which is impressive considering the other excellent performances seen from her more experienced colleagues.

Broken, which had its Irish premiere on the first night of the recent JDIFF festival, set a very high standard for the excellent run of films shown this year. Overall, the cast, including the other young actors, come together to deliver a thought-provoking and memorable film; where every person in it is in some way broken.

Ailbhe O’ Reilly

15A (see IFCO website for details)

90mins
Broken is released on 8th March 2013

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Cinema Review: Arbitrage

 

DIR/WRI: Nicholas Jarecki • PRO: Laura Bickford,
Robert Salerno, Kevin Turen, Justin Nappi  DOP: Yorick Le Saux  ED:
Douglas Crise  DES: Beth Mickle  Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim
Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker, Bruce Altman

As we look back over the past 12 months at some of the worst comedies
that have graced our cinema screens, there are two films that will
feature quite prominently. The Adam Sandler vehicle That’s My Boy and
the star-laden Movie 43 were widely panned by critics and audiences,
with the latter in particular sparking much debate about the
involvement of so many A-List performers in what was a seemingly
torturous experience for all concerned.

Theories have abounded as to how exactly the producers of Movie 43
(and indeed That’s My Boy) managed to secure the services of some many
talented actors and actresses, although Peter Farrelly’s explanation
that the participants of the former were ‘guilted to death’ is
probably the most plausible.

A-Listers appearing in films that seems well below their usual
standards is nothing new, however, and it is often suggested that they
agree to take part in certain films because they know a much more
worthy role is about to come their way.

Nicholas Jarecki’s debut feature, Arbitrage, could be viewed as one
such example, as it features top-of-the-range performances from Movie
43‘s Richard Gere and That’s My Boy star Susan Sarandon.

Gere takes on the role of Robert Miller, a multi-billionaire who
manages a hedge fund with his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling), with
Sarandon co-starring as his long-suffering wife. With his 60th
birthday having just passed, Miller is locked in a deal to sell the
fund for an extremely large profit, but unbeknownst to those involved
in his company (including his own daughter), he has cooked his own
books in order to cover an investment loss, making his upcoming
transaction all the more crucial to his future.

If these dodgy dealings are discovered, he faces the possibility of
being imprisoned for fraud, but even greater trouble lurks on the
horizon for Miller when he is involved in a late-night car crash with
his mistress (Laetitia Casta). When she is killed as a result of the
impact, Miller abandons the scene (realising that he could be
implicated in her death), covers his tracks as much as possible, and
enlists the help of a friend from his past to drop him back to his New
York home.

His efforts to sweep this incident under the carpet are not entirely
successful, though, and the suspicion of his wife and NYPD detective
Detective Bryer (Tim Roth) are raised, leading to a hectic few days
for the troubled Miller.

On paper, the combination of novice filmmaker Jarecki and screen
veteran Richard Gere was a curious one that had the potential to
produce mixed results. However, it has turned out to be a winning
partnership as the 33-year-old Jarecki provides the tools for Gere to
construct one of the most engaging and richly textured performances of
his highly accomplished career to date.

In the past, his abilities as an actor has been the subject of intense
scrutiny, but Gere has always been at his best when playing conflicted
or morally ambiguous characters, with the most obvious examples being
his iconic roles in American Gigolo, Breathless, Internal Affairs and
Days of Heaven, as well as Lasse Hallstrom’s much underrated, The
Hoax.

The character of Robert Miller is very much in this mould, and the
Pennsylvania actor clearly relishes playing a man that has allowed
himself to become compromised on so many different levels.

However, one of the great traits that Gere has generated in his 38
years working in cinema is his likeability factor, and although there
are several moments throughout Arbitrage when your appreciation of a
two-timing, corrupt businessman are brought in to question, the Pretty
Woman star ensures that you symphatise heavily with his situation.

Arbitrage is by no means a solo effort, though, as Sarandon is also on
top form as the put upon spouse, who is not entirely enamoured with
the ventures that her husband and daughter are involved in, but
nonetheless benefits financially from her husband’s elevated status.

Marling (who is best known for strong central portrayal in the
indie-spirited Another Earth) provides plenty of brio and verve as
Miller’s offspring, while Roth is on hand to supply the appropriate
level of threat that the script requires.

There are occasional mis-steps in the overall package, but with strong
acting across the board, confident direction from Jarecki, and a
screenplay as sharp as anything you are likely to see in the early
months of 2013, Arbitrage is a highly accomplished offering from a
very promising director, and serves as a welcome reminder of what Gere
and Sarandon are capable of when they place themselves in the right
environment.

Daire Walsh

15A (see IFCO website for details)

106mins
Arbitrage is released on 1st March 2013

Arbitrage – Official Website

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Funny Games U.S.

Funny Games U.S
Funny Games U.S

DIR/WRI: Michael Haneke • PRO: Christian Baute, Andro Steinborn, Chris Coen, Hamish McAlpine • DOP: Darius Khondji • DES: Kevin Thompson • CAST: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart

Funny Games U.S. is Austrian director Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot American remake of his 1996 film of the same title, in which a middle-class family are terrorised in their holiday home by two effete, creepy young men (played by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet), who occasionally break the fourth wall for Brechtian asides intended to point out that we’re watching people suffering for our entertainment. It’s an interesting choice for a remake of one of his own films, because Hollywood produces just the kind of films that presumably inspired this one, thus making an American version more on-target. The fact that the title acknowledges its remake status at least shows a commendable honesty.

The film itself is extremely well-made. There’s a gradual tension built up largely through slow, wide shots, seemingly mundane actions (with the occasional rather obvious planting of set-ups – though these are subverted somewhat later on), and eerie performances. There’s also some fine acting from Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Devon Gearhart, which almost justifies the remake.

There’s very little onscreen violence, but lots of tension (who knew the Nokia theme could sound chilling?), and pain, which is harder to endure than good old no-consequences blockbuster violence. It’s all bathed in a milky white light (at least during the daytime), both through art direction and lighting. This has several effects – one is to make it look more European, another is presumably stylistic, representing a cleanness that will be sullied, and of course, it’s unsettling, and untypical of American movies of this type. There’s a stillness that brings a feeling of menace from the very beginning.

The original film polarised critics when it came out. Possibly it was hated for offering little in the way of hope (and in places explicitly denying the audience hope), or because at times you get the feeling the director is judging the audience for watching his film. It has points to make about screen violence, but whether it succeeds in making those points is open to debate. It would be interesting to see how fans of torture porn would take to this movie, but they may not get a chance to see it, as it’s likely to be showing mostly to art-house crowds.

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