Anthony Hopkins is magnificent as The Father‘s title character, an old man losing his grip on reality to dementia, in debut director Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own stage play. We discuss the techniques the film uses to situate the audience within the mind of a dementia sufferer, and whether they lose their potency as the film develops. The Father‘s origins on stage are obvious in its sparse setting and focus on dialogue, and we suggest that the raw power of seeing the performances live, an immediacy, is lost here – though the cast, particularly Hopkins and Olivia Colman, are impressive nonetheless. Mike argues that the film somehow lacks enough plot to even fill its 97-minute duration, and would have worked better as a short film – José suggests that it ends up in cliché.
Still, for a while at least, it’s an extraordinarily effective dramatisation of what it might feel like to suffer from dementia, convinced of your own mental acuity while contradicted by everyone and everything around you. The Father doesn’t offer a pleasant experience, but it is a valuable one.
The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.
With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.
José reminisces about Judy Garland as a feature of his childhood, a constant presence on his family’s television, and as a person who took on different significance to him as he grew up. Whether he admits it or not, he’s been keen to see Judy since the trailers first appeared. Mike, predictably, neither knows much about her nor cares, although he has seen The Wizard of Oz about a thousand times.
The film’s greatest pleasure is Renée Zellweger’s performance, a pleasant surprise to José as he’s never liked her very much. We agree that the stage numbers leave something to be desired – the production seems to create a disconnect between Zellweger’s performance and singing, sounding artificial – but swoon at moments when it all comes together, particularly in the climactic rendition of Over the Rainbow. José suggests that this is when Zellweger most deviates from any of Garland’s true performances, and perhaps that relative freedom from imitation is what gives her the space to connect to the song here.
In general terms, the film is none too exciting, shot effectively but inexpressively and ticking off the normal plot points of a star-on-the-decline biopic, with money and family worries, substance abuse problems, temper tantrums and assorted other clichés making appearances, and authentic as it may be, there’s only so many times Judy can be late for a gig before the drama wears thin. Her relationship with her children is an emotional wrench, though, and the film builds to an effective ending, powered by that fantastic final number.
There’s a subplot about Judy’s encounter with a gay couple that recognises her importance to the gay community and contrasts her glitz and stardom with the inhumane oppression to which gay people were and are treated – homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK only two years prior to when the film is set. It’s a plot strand that could fall on its face through cheesiness or clumsiness, particularly considering the couple’s role in the final scene, but it arguably succeeds through periphrastic, sparing dialogue, and by tying everything back to Judy’s songs. Everything comes back to those, ultimately, and despite some lacklustre direction here and there, it all comes together when it absolutely needs to.
The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.
On the evidence of Gods of Egypt, Gerald Butler might have found his calling playing villains. He’s terrific and so is the movie. It’s like the very best ‘Sword and Sandal’ films of the 50s — lots of gorgeous semi-naked people cursing fate and doing graceful things with their bodies they call ‘combat’ –but with more interesting and sophisticated visuals. The film shows us Gods twice the size of mortals in the same frame throughout. It’s visually extraordinary i.e. like he major spectacular moments of films like Ant-Man but treated nonchalantly, not really drawn attention to, just part of this magical world conjured up by Alex Proyas. It’s a look that becomes gobsmacking upon reflection and in retrospect — and that’s just one aspect of this gloriously imaginative film. Some of the acting, however, is still at moments bad enough to bring out a camp response. So, all in all, rather perfect.
I was surprised to see that the reviews have been so bad. It seems performances are all professional critics pay attention and performances are a problem in Gods of Egypt . However, Butler has never been better. Rufus Sewell, who was so memorable in Proyas’ classic Dark City is still looking very handsome and is very good as a cold and conniving architect. Some have expressed surprise he’s never quite become a star but he’s had lots of chances. People can’t seem to identify with him, one of the many reasons he’s so effective in this. There are a few duff performances, but not offensively so (Nicolaj Coster-Waldeau is no different in Game of Thrones and no one seems to mind; and except for the final speech he makes at the end, I thought he was fine); and I think the story is an interesting one (the origin of the kings of Egypt), well told, and timely (it’s partly about the need of the 1% to listen to the 99%).
I think Proyas is a master at constructing arresting and meaningful visuals. The film is tons of fun, with superb set-pieces, action that genuinely engages and thrills and is visually pretty breathtaking at times. I know there’s been a brouhaha about the casting. But no one’s wearing blackface; how exactly were Egyptian Gods supposed to look like at the Dawn of Creation? And even if we admit that there’s a tinge of racism to the casting of this film, why is this more the case here than in any other big budget spectacle film? Gods of Egypt will undoubtedly become a staple of television schedules for year to come but there may not be too many opportunities to see it in its full glory. If you can, go for the full IMAX 3-D treatment. It’s worth it.