I will have to be succinct this week as I’ve watched 4 movies.
First up a joint choice by Phil & I was Rocketman (2019), a musical biopic of the early years of Elton John. You do not need to be a fan of John to enjoy this lavish production which has all the bells and whistles you’d expect of anything that Elton John is involved in. Directed with both sensitivity and gusto by Dexter Fletcher, who already had form with Bohemian Rhapsody, it stars Taron Egerton as Elton, and (in my mind at least, the under-rated) Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin, who, if you are under that rock, wrote the lyrics to a lot of Elton’s classic songs. It covers Elton’s quite sad early life, with a distant father and somewhat incompetant mother played by Bryce Dallas Howard superbly, as a musical prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music, through meeting Taupin, rising up to become a star and descending into debauchery simultaneously. I really loved how they used Elton’s songs to illustrate the parts of his life and Taron Egerton sang them all so differently to the originals you really had to think about the lyrics in a different way than you did before if you know the songs well enough. Julian Day designed the flamboyent costumes Elton is known for and based them on the ones Elton has worn in the past albeit changing things up a little, theres a great montage in the end credits comparing John to Egerton in the movie that was fun to see. Creative license was taken with the timing or specifics of the real people or historical events depicted in the film, and some of the people depicted were not happy at how they were portrayed, even so, it’s a stunning movie visually, the acting is spot on, and there’s a good deal of laughter along the way.
Next up is Phil’s choice. Not having learned his lesson from Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic last week, he opted for Keanu in Constantine (2005) 10 years later. Directed by Francis Lawrence, Keanu plays Constantine (originally a D.C Comic character, though there’s little of that left in this movie) who can communicate with half-angels and half-demons in their true form. He excorcises demons back to hell in order to try and exonerate himself with God for having tried to commit suicide, and thereby enter heaven and not hell when he dies of terminal lung cancer. Rachel Weiss plays a detective, Angela who’s twin sister (which she also plays) was also psychic and apparently commits suicide when in a nuthouse, but Angela doesn’t believe it and ends up with Constantine to try and prove the demons got her. Oh blimey, that’ll do, it’s a right mess of a film with cool special effects, but a totally loony plot. Rachel Weiss I am sure regrets this one, she is better than this, as is Tilda Swinton who appears as the Angel Gabriel, and we can only forgive Shia LaBeouf as Constantine’s driver, because he was 19 at the time and probably took anything offered.
So onto my choice, and the first thing I came across on the Netflix film search was The Highwaymen (2019) which Netflix bought the rights to. Directed by John Lee Hancock. I am not sure if I’d read about it, but can’t remember doing so, and it was the combination of it starring Woody Harrelson , Kevin Costner and Kathy Bates that pulled me in. The movie turned out to be about two ex Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and Manny Gault, who are asked to track down and apprehend Bonnie & Clyde (I am hoping even my people under the rock have heard of them!) by Governor Miriam Ferguson played by Kathy Bates. I’ve seen the Faye Dunaway/Warren Beatty movie, there’s songs about them, a TV mini series and they’ve become kind of folk heroes, a bit like Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, but The Highwaymen puts that into perspective, showing Bonnie & Clyde to be remorseless killers discarding other peoples lives for their own gain. Of course the movie takes it’s own liberties with history, exaggerating B&C’s part in a jailbreak, and Bonnie’s ruthless shooting of policemen. The Manny Gault character is a composite, but Frank Hamer was a real guy, and this is his story really which holds reasonably true. From the beginning I was grabbed by the cinematography, (John Scwartzmann), the music which was gorgeous,(Thomas Newman) the authentic and beautiful costumes of Americans in the 1930’s (Daniel Orlandi) and all those fantastic antique cars provided by private collectors who always volunteer when a movie like this turns up. A 1934 Ford V-8, for B&C as in real life, and a 1934 Ford V 9 for the Rangers, which gets more disheveled as they do. Michael Corenblith the production designer travelled 18,000 miles with location scouts and drove himself another 12,000 to source the 1,600 miles of terrain covered by B&C and the Rangers, and it showed. Costner and Harrelson play well together I really enjoyed their relationship, although a couple of critics accuse Costner of being ‘dull’, but Hamer was a methodical thoughtful guy, so being sparkly doesn’t work with that. (Also one of the critics is a Stars Wars fan so… just sayin’) Kathy Bates had a small part but stole the scenes she was in. You never see the faces of B&C, not until when they are dead anyway and that was a good thing about the movie, you get glimpses of them and you see their car, but the movie is about the Rangers and not them. Of course they are ambushed and killed at the end, and the car with them in it is towed back to town, what happened next happened in real life, but that would be a spoiler I think so I’ll leave it at that. To me this was quite an exquisite piece of work, with everything coming together beautifully, the characters, the settings, the authentic costumes and cars and the music score.
Finally while Phil was at work yesterday I watched a movie recommended by Pete called Everlasting Moments (2008). I’d read his review ages ago and got myself a DVD of it, then neglected to watch it, but now I have and am so glad I did. Based on the true story of Maria Larsson, a Finn living in Sweden played by Maria Heiskanan, the movie is gently and respectfully directed by Jan Troell. Starting in 1907 this Swedish movie follows the life of Maria, narrated by her eldest daughter Maja. Maria is married to Sigge, (Mikael Persbrandt) a conflicted character, sometimes charming, often quite dense, a womaniser, and prone to using violence on his wife and children when he is drunk or upset. Maria has won a camera in a lottery, which she takes to a photography shop owned by Sebastian Pederson (Jesper Christensen) ostensibly to sell. However he shows her how to use it, gives her some plates and developing equipment, and takes the camera as payment but allows her to use it. Photography changes Maria’s life, she is good at it, and Pederson is impressed. They slowly develop a bittersweet relationship but within the constraints of their circumstances. I won’t go on and spoil this, as a Swedish movie with subtitles there’s a chance not many people reading this will have seen it, but I would urge you to seek it out. It is beautifully filmed, the cinematography by Troell and Mischa Gavrjusjov evokes the era authentically, the slight sepia toning and thoughtful lighting invoking photographs of the time, and the acting is superb. Maria and Sigge are portrayed with so much depth by the two lead actors, and as they are unknown actors it is easy to believe in them. The supporting characters are just as good, in particular Christensen showing in his face and eyes what can’t be said of his feelings for Maria, and both Nellie Almgren and Callin Öhrvall playing the younger and older Maja, watching her parents volatile relationship and wanting Maria to leave the Dad.
Thanks for the heads up Pete, so glad I saw it.