Tag Archive: Helena Bonham Carter


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(A quick aside before this review begins. I watched this movie last night before I went to bed. I worked from 8:30-4:30 and took a 2 hour nap when I got home cause I have to work again from 10 PM to 2 AM. And there’s a reasonable chance that I won’t be able to finish this review before I have to go back to work in an hour and a half. We’ll see. Hopefully, that’s not the case.)

I have a soft spot for classic romances. It’s a theme that’s been explored on here from films as diverse as Giant to Penny Serenade to Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. Despite my jaded, world-weary cynicism, I’m a romantic at heart, and I like watching a well-crafted romance. Merchant Ivory films (the movies of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory) have a reputation as being lavish, meticulously constructed period romances, and while 1986’s A Room with a View is a beautifully acted and gorgeously shot film, I can’t ignore the fact that it was unequivocally one of the most boring films I’ve watched in ages.

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In the Edwardian era, young Lucy Honeychurch (Conversations With Other Women‘s Helena Bonham Carter) visits Florence with her aunt, Charlotte Bartlett (Gosford Park‘s Maggie Smith), in tow as her chaperone. A slightly rebellious girl, Lucy wanders Florence on her own and plays Beethoven passionately as the curious Vicar Beebe (Four Weddings and a Funeral‘s Simon Callow). Among the fellow Brits in the hotel Lucy and her aunt are staying at are the Emersons. Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) is a loud but well-meaning journalist while his son George (Julian Sands) is moody and brooding, a perfect match for the stormy Lucy.

It isn’t long before Lucy begins to fall for the handsome but aloof George, but when her aunt discovers the two kissing in the Italian countryside, Charlotte ends their Italian sojourn early and they return to England. Not long after, Lucy finds herself engaged to the foppish but well-moneyed Cecil Vyse (Gangs of New York‘s Daniel Day-Lewis). She cares for him although, it’s not the passionate, all-consuming romance she felt towards George. Lucy begins to resign herself towards her life with Cecil though when out of the blue, the Emersons move into a villa in her town and throw her entire life out of whack.

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Despite the nearly constant soporific effect that I felt during the entirety of this film, one would have to be insane to say that A Room with a View isn’t a gorgeously constructed film. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy back in the summer of 2009 and it was a life-changing experience. I could see Il Duomo from my apartment and every day on my way to class I walked by more history and art and culture than I saw in my entire life in the United States. Much like how David Lean’s Summertime captured Venice or Woody Allen’s Manhattan captured…. you know, every single frame set in Florence is a glorious ode to one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, and the scenes in England aren’t too shabby either.

And, A Room with a View is flush with brilliant performances from a truly deep well of great British actors. Denholm Elliott and Maggie Smith received Oscar nods for their turns in the film, and though they were great, they weren’t even the most impressive members of the cast to me. Dame Judi Dench (Skyfall) shines as an almost masculine and vivacious author looking for inspiration in Florence. Helena Bonham Carter shows why she would go on to be one of England’s most consistently under-appreciated stars with this early and mature performance. And Daniel Day-Lewis loses himself (as usual) in the role of the oblivious and possibly homosexual Cecil.

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But despite how well-crafted the film is from a technical perspective and an acting perspective, nothing it did could make me care about the dated comedy of manners on display and the tired/stale romance that sat at the film’s core. Longtime readers know that I have a fairly deep well of patience for deliberate pacing and slower storytelling. But, A Room with a View‘s pacing is absolutely turgid and the characters never seem to go anywhere. I can only recommend this film to the most die-hard fans of period drama and costume fanciness. Everybody else can stay at home and understand that this score is based almost entirely on the technical merits of this snooze of a film.

Final Score: B-

 

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Well, way back when I started reviewing all of the movies that had been nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, I said something dumb that isn’t true. I thought that The King’s Speech, this year’s Best Picture winner, was the last Best Picture nominee to be released on DVD/Blu-Ray. Well, I’m an idiot. The last film is actually True Grit and it doesn’t even have a release date yet, so that shows how much I know about movies. So, once I finish up reviewing the first nine films that were nominated for Best Picture (I still have Inception, The Social Network, and True Grit to go), it will be a while before I actually get around to that one. My bad. So, without further ado and any more of my inane ramblings, let’s jump into my review of the good but not great The King’s Speech.

The King’s Speech is the true story of Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the Duke of York who will eventually become King George VI of England on the verge of World War II. Prince Albert has a serious problem however. He has an uncontrollable stammer that has plagued him his entire life, and even when talking with his family and loved ones, he can barely spit a sentence out. Speaking in public is as frightening to him as stepping out of a foxhole in a firefight would be to a normal person. Yet, it is his duty as a member of the royal family to be a symbol of strength for his people, so he enlists the help of an unconventional speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help him get over his stammer and lead his people in a time of need.

This movie absolutely reeks of award bait. Biopic. Check. Period piece. Check. Inspirational. Check. Involves a person with a disability. Check. You’ve seen this movie before. The parts might be different. The players might not be the same. And people might talk with a funny accent. But at the end of the day, you’ve seen practically the same story over and and over again. The only scenes in the film that to me have any freshness or real life are the scenes between “Bertie” and Lionel at Lionel’s office. The acting chemistry between Firth and Rush is absolutely superb and they play off of each other fantastically.

This film was carried beyond its source material by acting that can only be described as mesmerizing. Colin Firth was, simply put, spell-binding as King George VI. This performance wasn’t quite as good as his role in A Single Man, but since I consider that to be the second best performance of the ’00’s behind Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood, don’t take that as an insult. I still haven’t made up my mind about whether he did a better job in this than Jesse Eisenberg did in The Social Network, but do not doubt that Colin Firth is simply put one of the finest actors of his generation. I imagine it won’t be long at all until he is Sir Colin Firth. Geoffrey Rush is actually tied in my mind with Christian Bale for the best supporting performance of the year. He plays Lionel with just the right charm and stubborness that you would expect from a common man that helped to cure a king. He’s brilliant and every scene with the two of them is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise conventional film. Helena Bonham Carter now officially has my vote for best supporting actress however as her role as the Queen. She is such an under-appreciated talent and its a shame that she still hasn’t gotten the major recognition she deserves. She is a rare breed of female actress that can play an astonishingly wide range of roles as well as anyone else.

The movie wasn’t great. It was good, quite good, and grounded in absolutely stellar performances, but this was not the Best Picture of last year. It was in fact, far from it. However, that’s a running theme I have with films that win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. They very rarely pick the film that I actually thought was the Best Film of the year to win, and they often reward directors for some of their least stellar work when they finally decide to recognize them (Scorscese, the Coens, etc.). Should you watch this film? Absolutely. If you love fine acting and an inspirational story, this movie will not disappoint. Just don’t go in with your hopes too high.

Final Score: B+

Here are three qualities of movies that I’m just an absolute sucker for and if you do at least one of them well, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’m going to enjoy your movie. I love inventive and stylistic approaches to shooting your film. I love constant, non-stop witty and engaging dialogue. And I love a good, old-fashioned tragic love story. Obviously, if your movie does all three of these things well, I’m going to absolutely love your movie. And out of nowhere comes a movie that I’ve never heard of that does all three of these things better than any romance I’ve watched since (500) Days of Summer. The movie I’m referring to is the absolutely fantastic Conversations with Other Women, which after just one viewing has catapulted itself into my pantheon of classic romance stories. When the final credits rolled, my jaw was on the floor because of how simply amazing this film was and the fact that I had never even heard of it before I watched it. This is a must-see.

I don’t want to ruin too much of the plot because the film is so expertly scripted and plotted, and the different story threads come weaving back together in beautiful and spectacular ways. It doesn’t matter that I was able to guess the film’s big twist early on because everything is written so absolutely spectacularly well. However, obviously, you need a bit of an introduction to the story if I’m going to convince anyone to watch it. A man (Aaron Eckhart) and a woman (Helena Bonham Carter) run into each other at a wedding. Their is an obvious instant attraction as well as the presence of an as yet unexplained history. The two hit it off and go up to the women’s hotel room together. I won’t say anything else about the story because I don’t want to ruin one more second of the joy of discovering just what is happening in this film.But needless to say, the film delivers an immensely powerful and tragic love story that takes you through countless superbly powerful emotional scenes as well as many beautiful understated scenes to balance things out.

If you weren’t able to tell from the screencaps that I’ve posted, this film is shot entirely in split screen. It was a gamble off an artistic choice, and in lesser hands, I feel like it would have came off as terribly gimicky and forced. However, in this film, it works brilliantly, and as past, present, future, and alternate possibilities collide, this particular stylistic decision is used to perfection. In every scene, the split screen enhances the story and emotional pull of the film. And, in one of the most beautiful love scenes that I’ve ever seen on film, the split screen is put to one of the best uses that I’ve ever witness. This is a “talky” movie. As in, that’s pretty much all that happens. For 90-minutes straight, you watch a man and a woman talk, not quite in real time, but almost. However, this is the best dialogue I’ve heard this side of a Woody Allen or Quentin Tarantino picture. It all sounds so natural and realistic, and I just couldn’t wait to hear more of it. It’s a rare gift for a film to really capture the way that people talk, but this film nails it spot on.

Since this is essentially a two character drama, no matter how well written or how well directed it was, this film would have failed miserably if the two stars didn’t live up to the material. No worries there. Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart both give what, I believe, are the performances of their careers. This is easily Carter’s best work since Fight Club and Eckhart has never done anything quite this spectacular before or since. Their performances are heart-breakingly realistic and once the different layers of the film are peeled away, earlier scenes become shaded with such  nuance and meaning, that it blows your mind. Romance in film is so much fantasy that something this sincere and believable tears you up and makes you thank God that people still write good movies. Helena Bonham Carter should have won (or at least been nominated) for the best actress Oscar in 2005. She was so much better than Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line.

This is a grown-up movie, like Chasing Amy or Annie Hall. It doesn’t give you the happy ending, boy meets girl love story that you want. It’s challenging and tragic, but worth every second of the film. I fell in love at first sight with this film. If you can handle a film where the characters pretty much just talk the whole time, you have to watch this right now. I mean, stop reading this blog. Rent or buy this movie. It’s one of the best romances that I’ve ever watched and has joined the elite list of my favorite films. It’s a classic and I still have no idea how it never crossed my path before.

Final Score: A+