Thursday 18 January 2018

Movie reviews: Love and Friendship, The Daughter, The Price of Desire, Alice Through the Looking Glass

Francesco Scianna as Jean Badovici and Orla Brady as Eileen Gray in The Price of Desire. Photo: Julian Lennon.
Francesco Scianna as Jean Badovici and Orla Brady as Eileen Gray in The Price of Desire. Photo: Julian Lennon.
Old pals: Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska return for 'Through the Looking Glass'

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases: Love and Friendship, The Daughter, The Price of Desire and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

In Tim Burton's 2010 film 'Alice in Wonderland', director and subject splendidly elided. Burton seemed to intuitively grasp the dream-like illogicality of Lewis Carroll's world, and spliced together 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Through the Looking Glass' to create a satisfyingly strong storyline for his visually sumptuous 3-D movie.

This film is inspired by that one, but Burton has chosen to produce Alice Through the Looking Glass (3*, PG, 113mins) rather than direct it. It shows, but the film's greatest problem is its plot: as Burton had already plundered most of the famous moments in 'Through the Looking Glass' for the first movie, there wasn't much Lewis Carroll left for them to crib. As a consequence they're forced to invent, and the results are not always impressive.

Alice, preposterously, has spent three years at sea as a female Victorian sea captain when she returns home to receive bad news. Her mother is being forced to sell their home to her jilted and vindictive fiancée, Hamish, and Alice will be forced to work for him as a clerk. She's pondering her next move when Absolem the caterpillar appears and guides her back to Wonderland. There she finds that her old friend the Mad Hatter is at death's door, and can only be saved if Alice masters time travel and saves his extended family.

The excellent Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice, and as the Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp does his bewildered man-child thing - again. A fine supporting cast includes a crazed Helena Bonham-Carter, the special effects are splendid, but the film is hamstrung by a storyline that just doesn't hang together.

Whit Stillman's Love and Friendship (4*, G, 93mins) is a far more satisfying and accomplished literary adaptation. Based on Jane Austen's early novel 'Lady Susan', Mr Stillman's film deliberately and skilfully highlights Austen's gift for comedy and features Kate Beckinsale's best performance in years. She is Lady Susan Vernon, a handsome and ostensibly charming widow whose arrival is dreaded by every south-eastern English country house.

Bright and beautiful, Lady Susan is irresistible to men, and is not afraid to use her charms to get her own way. Camping out in the homes of various relations, she searches for a new husband rich enough and stupid enough to be of service, and simultaneously bullies her more upright daughter into marrying for money. She's a monster, but an annoyingly charismatic one.

Filmed mainly in Ireland, Mr Stillman's film unfolds delightfully, is full of fun and wit, and Tom Bennett is superb as the idiotic but inordinately wealthy suitor, Sir James Martin.

And now for a spot of Outback Ibsen. Based on the Norwegian master's play 'The Wild Duck', Simon Stone's The Daughter (3*, No Cert, IFI, 96mins) stars Miranda Otto and Ewen Leslie as Charlotte and Oliver, the proud parents of Hedvig (Odessa Young), a clever and beautiful teenage girl whose bright future seems secure. But when the local big cheese Henry (Geoffrey Rush) decides to close his timber mill, Oliver is out of a job, and things get worse when Henry's son returns from America to spill long-buried secrets and generally make a nuisance of himself.

'The Daughter' rises nicely to a memorable crescendo, and while its script is pretty ordinary, Odessa Young is outstanding as the unfortunate Hedvig.

Mary McGuckian's The Price of Desire (2*, 12A, 108mins), 2 Stars takes a wonderful story and makes a bit of a hash of it. Orla Brady is Eileen Gray, the Wexford-born designer and architect who became a leading figure in the Modernist movement in Paris in the 1930s and 40s. In Ms McGuckian's film, we find out how Le Corbusier and others passed off her work as their own, but 'Price of Desire' is stilted and clumsy and unimaginative in the extreme.

Coming soon...  The Nice Guys (Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe); Me Before You (Sam Claflin, Emilia Clarke); Race (Stephen James); Warcraft: The Beginning (Paula Patten).

Irish Independent

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