Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Girls in the Title: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest & Tamara Drewe

Here's a pair of fairly surprising results: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest isn't very good, and Tamara Drewe, which I'd figured to be a screwbally sex comedy, is actually a pretty good ensemble piece. In fact, while writing up the reviews and trying to determine the final star ratings, I flirted with knocking Hornet's Nest down to a two-star rating and eventually increased Drewe's from a plain three.

Both of the films have leading ladies who should be big stars, though. Noomi Rapace is already lining up a fair amount of English-language parts, which has got to be considered Sweden's loss. Tough to blame her, though - the money in Hollywood is crazy, and she's not likely to ever have another opportunity to go after it. She's got Sherlock Holmes 2 and an action/adventure Hansel and Gretel from the director of Dead Snow coming up, but not the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. After all, even if that movie wasn't a career trap (if her performance there doesn't get the sort of praise that her work in the original got, folks may assume she can't work well in English), if it's a success, she'd eventually wind up doing Hornet's Nest again, and who needs that?

Gemma Arterton, meanwhile, has already been in a couple big Hollywood movies, most notably Quantum of Solace (and a couple years out, I find that though she was "the other Bond girl" in it, I have a heck of a time remembering that the primary one was Olga Kurylenko), but the thing she was in that really knocked me flat was The Disappearance of Alice Creed - she's great there and that movie gets better the more one thinks about it. That movie played down just how good-looking she was a bit, but I'd like to think we'd have noticed what a good actress she was anyway.

Both, apparently, have been talked about in connection with Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, and though that thing is all kinds of unnecessary, it'll certainly be worth watching if it gets one or both of these actresses in the cast.

Luftslottet som sprängdes (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 October 2010 at the Brattle Theatre (Complete Millennium trilogy/preview screening)

It's somewhat apt that, in giving the novels and films in the Millennium trilogy similar titles in English-speaking parts of the world, the names given second and third wound up being phrases that essentially mean the same thing. They are, more or less, the same story, with the new film serving as an epilogue that is somehow longer than the one whose loose ends it is tying up.

When we last saw Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), he was calling the police and EMTs and she had been shot three times by her evil, Soviet-defector father Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov) and impervious-to-pain half-brother Ronald Niedermann (Mikael Spreitz) - though she did do a number on daddy with a shovel. Now, while she recovers in the hospital, the police still plan to arrest her for murder; the old men who have covered up Zalachenko's crimes for thirty years plot to silence her, either via assassination or by having Dr. Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl), the psychologist who declared her incompetent, do the same; and the missing Niedermann wants revenge. Fortunately, Mikael's sister Annika (Annika Hallin) is a lawyer, and he plans to devote the next issue of Millennium to proving Lisbeth's innocence, though his editor and sometime lover Erika (Lena Endre) worries about his obsession.

Sounds exciting, right? And it really should be. But remember how the second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire, basically tossed the chemistry that Lisbeth and Mikael had out the door by having them barely come into contact with each other? Hornet's Nest takes it to the next level by not just separating the pair, but by barely having Lisbeth do anything at all. She spends the first half of the movie sitting in her hospital room, barely moving; when Mikael manages to smuggle a cellphone in, she doesn't help her defense by whipping out some quality hacking, but by writing her autobiography - essentially, recapping things we already know. She changes back into her leather outfit from the first movie in order to look incongruous at her trial, and gets an action scene at a moment when the story needs it least. One can't fault Noomi Rapace's work in this movie - she embodies this person full of anger and distrust just about as well as anybody can, but it becomes an unusually literal and frustrating example of a talented actor not being given anything to do.

Full review at EFC.

Tamara Drewe

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 17 October 2010 at Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run)

Tamara Drewe is an odd film, able to defy expectations even if all the audience knows going into it is its name. After all, one would expect this movie to be a showcase for Gemma Arterton as the title character, and while she's certainly memorable, this movie establishes itself early as an ensemble piece. It will likely also confound retail shelvers in the future, as it doesn't quite favor light drama over weighty comedy enough to make that classification easy.

The movie doesn't open with Drewe at all, but with an ad for a writer's retreat in Dorset. Beth Hardiment (Tamsin Greig) oversees it, as well as the attached farm. Her husband Nicholas (Roger Allam) is a bestselling mystery writer, currently seeing a pretty young thing on the side and dispensing false humility to the other writers, such as visiting American academic Glen (Bill Camp), would-be novelist Diggory (John Bett), online lesbian porn author Eustacia (Bronagh Gallagher), et alia. Tamara is a writer, too, a columnist for a London newspaper just returned to handle the renovation and sale of her late mother's house. She'll call on Beth's handyman Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) for help, even if he was her boyfriend back when she was a teenager with a now surgically-reduced nose and his family owned the land for generation before the Drewes. She'll also take up with a drummer she interviews, Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper). Ben has a couple of local fans, troublemaking girls Jody Long (Jessica Barden) and Casey Shaw (Charlotte Christie).

Glen is stalled on a book about Thomas Hardy, a wink at the film's source material twice removed (this film is an adaptation of Posy Simmond's graphic novel, itself inspired by Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd). Familiarity with that story isn't necessary to enjoy Drewe, though; those who (like myself) come in cold will find an intriguing story that plays familiar situations in interesting ways. Screenwriter Moira Buffini and director Stephen Frears do a nice job of working new characters and information in without necessarily tipping off their significance, and later deftly pulling earlier moments toward the end. They divide the focus between characters expertly and equitably so that nobody's story seems extraneous and flawed characters aren't presented as strict saints or sinners.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

Helen said...

Odd or not, I'm still going to watch Tamara Drewe!

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