Monday 15 July 2019

Damo & Ivor review: There's no point in pretending any of this is funny

  • Mary Magdalene (12A, 120mins) - 4 stars
  • Peter Rabbit (G, 95mins) - 3 stars
  • The Square (15A, 151mins) - 4 stars
  • Unless (15A, 93mins) - 4 stars
  • Damo & Ivor (15A, 90mins) - 2 stars
Damo and Ivor
Damo and Ivor
Friend til the end: Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara in Mary Magdelene
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

If Jesus can forgive Mary Magdalene, there's some hope for you lot. That was the line touted by the Christian Brothers back in the day when the perceived wisdom held that Mary was a fallen woman, a prostitute, until Christ set her straight. All nonsense of course: there's no evidence to back the claim, which was invented (possibly by Pope Gregory) to suit the church's peculiar views on women.

In Garth Davis's dusty, unfussy drama Mary Magdalene, we're given perhaps a more accurate view of who she might have been. Rooney Mara is Mary, the daughter of a Galilean fisherman who's about to submit to an arranged marriage when Jesus (Joaquin Phoenix) shows up, dispensing love and flanked by acolytes. Mary's impressed and drops everything to follow him.

I liked the matter-of-fact way Davis tells this extremely familiar story: we're given a real sense of what his followers sacrificed and risked, a woman most particularly. Chiwetel Ejiofor is very good as a measured, calculating Peter, but it's Mary who emerges here as Christ's most unwavering friend.

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Beatrix Potter would be swivelling in her grave like a rotisserie chicken if she could witness the casual contempt with which her work is treated in Peter Rabbit.

A cheerfully cheesy family comedy, it combines real actors and animated animals to sometimes amusing effect, and James Corden voices Peter, a cocky young show-off who stages daring raids on Mr McGregor's garden. McGregor is a nasty grump, and when he keels over into his carrots and dies, the animals throw a party.

Their celebrations are short-lived, because when McGregor's anally retentive nephew Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) turns up, hostilities are vigorously resumed. Corden and the other rabbits speak ghastly estuary English and perform elaborate high-fives. They're hard to love (though kids may be amused by them), and this film would be pretty much unwatchable were it not for a delightful slapstick comic turn by Gleeson.

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The winner of last year's Palme d'Or, Ruben Ostlund's The Square is a wild and wicked societal satire set in an avant garde Stockholm art gallery. Its curator, Christian (Claes Bang) is a well-heeled dude who seems more like a marketing man than an art expert. When his mobile phone is stolen in an ingenious sting that looks more like performance art than some of Christian's exhibits, he affects amused indifference but uses a tracking app to launch a counter-attack that will backfire.

The Square is long but that's not a criticism because it's never dull and manages to pack in some spectacularly unlikely set pieces, particularly a climactic dinner involving a performance artist pretending to be an ape.

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Alan Gilsenan is best known for his documentaries, but in Unless he returns to his first love, drama. His screenplay is based on a Carol Shields novel and stars Catherine Keener as Reta, a happily married Canadian writer who struggles to cope when her eldest daughter inexplicably decides to live homeless on Toronto's wintry streets. There's a reason for this, but it's not forthcoming, and meanwhile all of Reta's bourgeois assumptions will be sorely tested.

It's a handsome film, soulful but efficient, and Keener and Hannah Gross deliver fine performances.

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And finally, a quick word about Damo & Ivor: The Movie, a tardy spin-off from the frothy 2013 TV comedy. A Dublin take on The Prince and the Pauper, the sitcom starred Andy Quirke as identical twins separated at birth: Ivor, an entitled Southside twit, and Ivor, a lovable Northside rogue. They formed an unlikely bond and in this film go in search of their long lost Traveller sibling. Cue 90 minutes of sexual innuendo and more masturbation jokes than one might have thought possible. There's no point in pretending any of this is funny.

Irish Independent

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