Tag Archives: Four Weddings and a funeral

THE GUERNSEY LITERARY & POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY

Four Star Rating

“…it’s Katherine Parkinson’s comical yet wonderfully vulnerable and bitter-sweet portrayal of the gin-distilling lonely heart, Isola Pribby, that is possibly the film’s most surprising delight.” – Wayward Wolf.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (and you can forget about it if you think I’m reeling that off repeatedly over the next few paragraphs! Let’s call it T-GLAPPPS from hereon in), is a film whose historic setting is the aftermath of the German occupation of the channel island of Guernsey – an island, like neighbouring Jersey, that suffered badly at the hands of the German army during the Second World War.

Incidentally, as a slight aside – the Military Museum – housed in an old German bunker on the island of Jersey – is a really excellent must-see not only for World Ward II aficionados, but for those that would benefit from gaining a more in-depth background to these troubled years of war time occupation.

But I digress…

The bizarrely named Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society was formed as something of an off-the-cuff cover story out of necessity during a routine German stop-and-search of a group of local friends who had been caught out at night after curfew. They’d been making their way home following a gathering at a friend’s house in which they’d all feasted hungrily upon roasted pork, a food source that was now strictly forbidden under the German rule.

Having come up with and duly registered their peculiarly-named society in order to fool their captors, they now had no choice but to continue with the charade, and thus, once a week, initially under the short-lived supervision of a bored German, the group would assemble to read and discuss literature with one another.

A few years on, and with Guernsey once again liberated, a letter sent by one of the society’s members, Dawsey (Michiel Huisman), to a London-based journalist and author, Juliet Ashton (Lily James), leads to a rather intimate pen-friendship developing between the two. Juliet’s interest in this remarkable society is suitably piqued and soon enough she finds herself aboard a boat en route to Guernsey, temporarily abandoning her fiancee in the process, but determined to finally write an article of true substance and worth.

But as Juliet will soon discover, this society, though amusingly-titled and formed through an act of rebellious deception, in fact hides tragic and painful secrets for its members.

Whilst using the German occupation as an historical setting and a frequent reference point, Director Mike Newell’s film is in fact much less a gritty depiction of the horrors of war, and far more a conventional love story. The age old tale of the girl who apparently had it all, yet deep down realised that what she had did not provide her with sufficient emotional fulfilment.

With this point understood and acknowledged, Newell’s film can be considered as something of a charming triumph. Certainly it’s a career best performance from Lily James, whose nuanced depiction of the enthusiastic and head-strong Juliet, is full of warmth and sparkle.

There are predictably solid performances from the likes of Tom Courtenay and Penelope Milton, but it’s Katherine Parkinson’s comical yet wonderfully vulnerable and bitter-sweet portrayal of the gin-distilling lonely heart, Isola Pribby, that is possibly the film’s most surprising delight.

Indeed, the casting is well judged throughout with an array of well-formed characters in whom one can truly emotionally invest. This is perhaps not surprising considering that T-GLAPPPS benefits from the directorial involvement of the man behind everybody’s? perennial favourite, Four Weddings and a Funeral – a film whose feel and sense of formula is fairly evident here.

It’s true that there are one or two inconsistencies here and there and elements of the narrative at times feel a little ‘token’ in nature and might have benefited from some further exploration. But these are more suggestions than faults. What is undeniable here is that this is British film making done well and crucially, done with considerable commercial appeal, and not at the expense of its artistic integrity.

T-GLAPPPS is a film that’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in. A film that knows exactly what it’s doing as it sucks you in with its considerable well engineered charm. But above all, T-GLAPPPS is a film that’s almost impossible not to like.

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THEIR FINEST

“…perhaps the show-stealing role is taken by Bill Nighy with his comical portrayal of the puffed-up thespian figure, Ambrose Hiliard.” 

Wayward Wolf.

Lone Scherfig’s WWII drama, Their Finest, strikes well the tricky balance between romantic comedy and serious content. Barring a sudden entrance from Rowan Atkinson, War, after all, is probably not much of a laughing matter.

Catrin Cole (a delightful performance from Gemma Arterton), is the demure, softly spoken Welsh girl from Ebbw Vale. She has moved from the valleys to London along with her partner, Ellis Cole (Jack Huston), who feverishly attempts to establish himself as a fine artist of worth, having been promised opportunities within the field relating to the on-going war effort.

Life’s a struggle though. Financially-speaking, Catrin and Ellis can barely afford the rent, until that is she unexpectedly lands a job writing scripts for the British film industry. But the struggles are of a very different kind when it becomes apparent to Catrin that her writing talents are somewhat undervalued in her new role owing to her gender, and she is consigned to writing throwaway ‘female slop’ as opposed to anything that may be considered at all worth while.

Somehow though, through sheer hard work and a canny knack for saying the right thing, she lands herself an opportunity to co-write the script for a military propaganda piece, intended to lift the spirits of the allied forces. For this, Catrin joins a small team of writers, namely, Raymond Parfitt (Paul Ritter), and Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin). Buckley is a character that is hard to warm to. Tom’s initial negativity gives rise to friction between himself and Catrin, yet ultimately a fairly complex and involved relationship develops between the pair. The three of them are tasked with pulling together the script for a piece based vaguely upon true events. It is in many ways as ridiculous as it is inspirational, not helped by the constant meddling from those in lofty positions of military power, insistent upon shoe-horning in edits on a whim to suit each and every war ‘fad’ of the moment. Nonetheless, Catrin flourishes in her role and becomes an indispensable part of the set up.

All the while, bombs are falling around about her, over the City of London. The blitz, in full effect, makes for a surreal, hurdle-ridden backdrop to this rather charming tale.

Considering the setting and subject matter, it’ll come as no shock to suggest that there is something overwhelmingly British about Scherfig’s film in that Richard-Curtis-esque Four Weddings / Notting Hill fashion. Such an achievement is brought about chiefly through a collection of lightly-stereotyped, yet intriguing characters. As already mentioned, Arteton is excellent, whilst Huston and Claflin are well cast in their respective parts, but perhaps the show-stealing role is taken by Bill Nighy with his comical portrayal of the puffed-up thespian figure, Ambrose Hiliard.

Hanging on for grim death to the remnants of his acting career, Hilliard is deeply bitter of the fact that war has rather savaged what he’d anticipated would be his golden twilight years in film. His eccentric agent, Sammy Smith (Eddie Marsan) – complete with a dishevelled sheep’s head ensconced in his bag (a treat for his constant bull terrier companion) – is at best professionally adequate, but generally below par for the frustrated Hilliard’s career-needs. Living, as he does, in his own rose-tinted bubble of self-importance, yet more than aware of the slow, painful death of his career, the last thing that Hilliard needs is a pandering agent with relatively little clout in the industry.

Whilst it may well lack a little depth and consequently fall some way short of being considered a classic of British cinema, as far as bitter-sweet, and frequently poignant feel-good stories go, Lone Scherfig’s gentle tale of one girl’s single-minded determination to overcome the considerable odds stacked against her, is hugely enjoyable, and very possibly Gemma Arteton’s finest hour, to boot.

 

FILM REVIEW: Bridget Jones’s Baby

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is having a baby, and there are two potential fathers. Bridget is getting older, and the world, to Bridget, appears to be getting younger.

What a ‘to-do!’

If I’m perfectly honest with myself, Bridget Jones’s Baby, the third film in the franchise, would rank somewhere near the bottom of a ‘must see films of the year’ list. There will doubtless be very few shocked by that particular revelation. It is after all a film that’s unapologetically geared towards a predominantly female audience of a certain age.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Such films serve as a good counterbalance to the plethora of God-awful, tiresome action films that relentlessly clog up cineplexes, nationwide. If the truth be told, I normally make a point of avoiding both.

There is however no escaping it, Bridget Jones’s Baby is a film that’s based upon the original book and concept of a female author. It’s directed by a woman and it’s packed solid with women’s ‘humour’ which, going by the cacophony of shrieks, howls and giggles emanating from all around about me in the particular screening that I attended, was blisteringly funny, to say the least.

Only… it wasn’t. Not to me anyway.

I’m being a little harsh, although I will say that the opening fifteen or twenty minutes, in which we are re-introduced to Bridget and her by now forty-something existence, and the struggles she faces to remain relevant within the hip TV and media circles in which she still operates, did make me want to bleach my eyes, ears and senses in general. A reaction no doubt to the onslaught of sickeningly slick, sassy one-liners, a largely toe-curling script, and some rather blatantly obvious visual gags.

However – and it’s a big however – once Bridget Jones’s Baby settles down, stops waving its arms around in that excruciating ‘Me, Me, Me!’ fashion, in an attempt to make its mark and get itself noticed – essentially, once it’s stopped being quite so nauseatingly Sex and The City, and become a little more Four Weddings meets Love Actually – a rather memorable little feel-good film threatens to emerge. And not a moment too soon.

It helps that a who’s who of British film, drama and television comedy accounts for the lion’s share of the film’s cast.

Gemma Jones and Jim Broadbent add weight (not literally), to proceedings, as Bridget’s parents, and a very special mention to the always superb, Emma Thompson, who once again defies the brevity of her bit-part role, to just about steal the show.

Colin Firth, rehashes his role as Mark, the tall, silent and slightly repressed English gent, whilst Patrick Dempsey plays Jack – Mark’s polar opposite – an emotionally open, slick American charmer, who has achieved considerable fame in championing the use of algorithms as a way to aid in the match-making process.

Sometimes together, and at other times independently, the pair do their best to vie for Bridget’s attentions through all manner of scrapes and tricky scenarios; each of them hopeful that Bridget’s baby-to-come, will ultimately prove to be theirs.

Bridget Jones’s Baby is a Londoner’s ‘spot the location’ dream, with various famous locations and landmarks springing up, doctored as they are – at times almost out of all recognition – for the benefit of the imaginations of the ‘Hollywood market’, but it doesn’t matter. It’s all good fun.

Perhaps more surprising than anything though is the fact that Bridget Jones’s Baby somehow manages to turn a decidedly shaky start – in my humble opinion, if no-one else’s – into a fully fledged, thoroughly convincing feel-good film that ultimately leaves an overwhelming impression of being, on balance at least, both emotionally engaging and rather amusing, in equal measures.

And who’d have thought that?