Tuesday 24 October 2017

Ford's debut is a seamless switch


A Single Man

Cert 15

Fashion mogul Tom Ford opens his Hollywood account with an adaptation of a Christopher Isherwood novel set in 1960s LA. Colin Firth is Englishman George Falconer, a buttoned-up lecturer destroyed by the death of his partner (Matthew Goode) and resigned to suicide. On his final day, he undergoes a heightened sensitivity to those around him, among them close friend Julianne Moore and a flirtatious student played by Nicholas Hoult.

Each scene is carefully crafted with elegant sepia-toned brushstrokes and a classic celluloid grain. This, along with the art deco, sharp attire and sharper dialogue, produces a similar sense of the era that Mad Men flaunts on the small screen. If Ford is unaccustomed to restraint, it shows. A Single Man is a tad too pleased with itself in parts, with overlong scenes devoted to contemplative beauty.

Granted, it's all very easy on the eyes, but it also distracts from the work's real marrow, namely Firth's command of the lead. What makes this film a turning point in his standing as an actor is the range -- emptiness, euphoria, guilt -- he communicates, sometimes in silence, as his character crumbles quietly. Helping Firth to swallow the screen in one electrifying central act is Moore, an effervescent but tragic foil for Firth.

So, a sophisticated debut, and Ford hasn't needed to borrow a cent or bow to others in the process. While this may get feathers in a ruffle (especially if awards follow), there's no denying his filmmaking career is off to an enviable start.


A Single Man opens on Friday

Youth in Revolt

Cert 16

Juno star Michael Cera's career arc is increasingly coming across as an extended audition for any remake of The 40 Year Old Virgin that may eventually be forthcoming. Cera is not yet of that vintage, of course, but his turn in hit-and-miss teen comedy, Youth in Revolt, suggests that something has got to change if he's to transcend parts that revolve around nerdy types looking to lose their virginity.

Cera stars as Nick Twisp, a California teenager with industrial-strength angst in his pants. An aspiring novelist with a passion for Frank Sinatra, French movies and literature, he worries about "dying a virgin". Everything changes for Nick when an unwanted vacation leads him to a trailer park and an encounter with dreamboat Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday). Also a Francophile, she's taken by Nick but not to the extent that she's willing to leave her all-American boyfriend. So what can Nick do to seal the deal?

Enter nasty Nick, the moustachioed Francois Dillinger (also played by Cera), an alter ego imagined in the hope of helping Nick connect with his inner badboy.

Youth In Revolt is based on a coming of-age-novel that has been compared with Catcher in the Rye but, on this evidence, it's difficult to imagine that the late JD Salinger would have been complimented by the comparison. The script lacks the necessary comic oomph to move things beyond a thinking person's American Pie scenario.


Youth in Revolt is now showing


Cert 15A

It first appears that Grace (Amy Kirwan) is so devoted to her seven-year-old son Eamon (Robert Donnelly) that she fails to see how allowing her son to share her bed makes her partner Daniel (Darren Healy) feel excluded and frustrated. It's the school holidays and when Grace's mother is slow to answer the door, wary of yet again being asked to mind her grandson, Grace's true colours start to show. Far from selfless devotion she seeks the easy way out in dealing with her son and treats Daniel as a driver and a banker. Short on funds they opt for a cheap holiday in a family cottage where their strange love triangle plays out.

Margaret Corkery's first feature film is giving a nice little account of itself at the festivals, and deservedly so. Simple and made on a shoe string, the film is sparse in terms of dialogue, soundtrack and sets, but what is there, is made to count. The focus shifts from Grace, to Daniel to Eamon and the performances certainly withstand such scrutiny

The story is bravely paced and very neat -- it answers its own questions with frequent flashes of dark humour. For Irish viewers it has the added appeal of the familiar, stalwart attendance at the beach (Brittas) regardless of the weather because you're on an Irish holiday, the car, the bar, the characters.


Eamon is now showing in the IFI and selected cinemas

The Princess and the Frog

Cert G

Tiana (voiced by Anika Noni Rose from Dreamgirls) has worked hard to fulfil her dead father's dream of creating a fabulous restaurant. It's New Orleans in the 1920s, a pretty place, but not an easy one for Disney's first African American princess. Tiana struggles with race and finance issues while her flighty friend Charlotte (Jennifer Cody) can concentrate on her dream of marrying a prince. Lo and behold one arrives, the charming but disinherited Naveen (Bruno Campos) who is intercepted by the violet-eyed Voodoo practitioner Dr Facilier (Keith David) who changes Naveen's servant into the prince, and the prince into a frog.

Clearly a princess is required but rather than change him back into royalty, the kiss he wangles from Tiana turns her amphibian too which does nothing to soften her heart towards his feckless ways. Still, off they hop into the bayou, where they meet Ray the Cajun firefly, Louis the jazz lovin' gator and Madame Odie while belting out jazz and chank-a-chank and dodging evil spirits.

There has been criticism that Disney's first black princess isn't technically a princess and Naveen is dark skinned, not black, so they are neither Disney's first black power couple nor the first black/white interracial couple. However children don't care about the politics.

Overall, the film works well. The pace is maintained, the humour is alive, the setting original and the return to hand-drawn animation welcome. The kids in the audience really enjoyed it, and so too did the adults.


The Princess and the Frog is now showing

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