Tag Archives: ben whishaw

Film review: Paddington 2

Quad_Fairground_AW_[32622] Paddington 2

I’ll dollop on marmalade analogy early: this film is deliciously sweet, but with a gently tart edge, and if there were a cinematic equivalent of comfort food this would be it. But it would be unreasonably twee to spread it on too thick, given this is a film that wears charm on its sleeve, but never becomes sickly.

Once again voiced by the wonderful Ben Whishaw, Paddington is on a mission to buy a thoughtful birthday present – a unique book about London – for his Aunt Lucy (the voice of Imelda Staunton). This first requires getting a job (no mean feat for the delightfully naive little soul who seems to be a magnet for accidental trouble) but things take a turn for a elaborately worse when a thief gets his hands on the precious book and disappears in a puff of smoke – leaving Paddington to get the blame and the Brown family with the task of putting the clues together and clearing his name.

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Hugh Grant dominates a stellar cast in what is probably his finest, and certainly most hilarious, role. He spares no flourish for a barnstorming performance as ageing showman – and master of disguise – Phoenix Buchanan, who is busily switching accents and wigs as he plots to get his hands on a hidden treasure that could radically change his fortunes now he’s reduced to dog food ads and local appearances. The bulk of the remaining laughs come from Brendan Gleeson’s menacing prison inmate, who forms an unlikely alliance with our fluffy friend while they’re both behind bars. It’s testament to the quality of the film that it’s packed with big names and brief cameos  – no monstrous egos on show besides Buchanan’s.

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Everything is just so perfectly judged, with a brilliant blend of slapstick humour – largely piled on the unfortunate head of Tom Conti’s grumpy judge – and witty asides mixed in with lots of loveliness as the residents of Windsor Gardens come to realise how much better life is with a marmalade-loving bear in the mix. Paul King and Simon Farnaby don’t spare the undertone, with a showdown between Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) and mean-spirited NIMBY-ite jobsworth Mr. Curry (Peter Capaldi) about welcoming in strangers providing a little bit of a bite for the adults in the audience.

With the world as it is right now, this is the charming, open-hearted comedy audiences of all ages need to see and be soothed by – one where we can believe that with enough faith in the power of human goodness, all can be made right.

Paddington 2 goes on general release from November 10th.

Parents’ note: my rather sensitive 7yo really enjoyed this – a few belly laughs and she was genuinely moved at moments. It’s the kind of thing that tends to sweep kids of all ages along with it, but there’s nothing to alarm the youngest or more sensitive souls.

Tickets were kindly provided by ThinkJam PR on behalf of the production for us to see the film. Opinions are entirely my own, as ever. If you’ve seen the film or want to find out more, join Paddington on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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Film review: Suffragette, BFI London Film Festival Opening Gala

A view from the red carpet.

A view from the red carpet at the BFI London Film Festival 2015.

Deeds not words…

As famous slogans go, it’s a pretty spectacular one to base your film on. In Suffragette, Abi Morgan has put the bite in soundbite, stitching together a stomach-clenching script in which each scene has the punch of a powerful strapline and each stage is blisteringly, self-consciously, deliberately polemic.

I felt Suffragette rather than watching it. The lense of a working class woman allows director Sarah Gavron – who has been working on bringing this story to the big screen for a decade – to show a real and specific human cost to activism. Opening in the laundry in which Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) has spent her whole life, the film takes us on a journey of loss, each one worse than the last, unflinchingly spelling out the price of freedom, finally culminating in a pointed list of what is still to be won.

Carey Mulligan quickly drifts in to say her thanks before heading off home to her infant child.

Carey Mulligan quickly drifts in to say her thanks before heading off home to her infant child.

It’s visceral, and it’s raw. In many ways, it’s a film for people who are still wavering on the edge of feminism; for those who have been involved in the movement in any depth there are no surprises – from the brief appearance of Emmeline Pankhurst (a predictably wonderful Meryl Streep cameo) making a rabble-rousing speech to the horrifically inevitable force feeding scene. For those who are already engaged the power of the film lies both in the film’s very existence and in the sympathetic, complex and interesting performances, in which both Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff shine, ably supported in an unusually but very effectively understated performance from Helena Bonham Carter as Edith Ellyn (an amalgam of various real-life figures).

Cast and crew including Sarah Gavron, Abi Morgan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw and the queenly Meryl Streep.

Cast and crew including Sarah Gavron, Abi Morgan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw and the queenly Meryl Streep.

It’s worth noting that the male cast are not abandoned to be patriarchal stereotypes but each of the key characters – dogged policeman Steed (Brendan Gleeson) and Maud’s conflicted husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) – represent the way in which apparently ‘good’ men can support oppression through a misguided cyncism, fear or shame. They are not one-dimensional villains (though there is at least one appalling figure in the form of abusive laundry manager Mr Taylor), but conflicted and authentic individuals – a creative choice that in turn prevents the women that are the clear and present beating heart of this film from being sidelined into just mouthpieces for slogans.

Heather Stewart - in a weirdly wonderful Suffrage-inspired dress - delivers some home truths about representation in the industry.

Heather Stewart – in a weirdly wonderful Suffrage-inspired dress – delivers some home truths about representation in the industry.

I’d been so excited to see this for so long that I didn’t realise fully how strong the impact would be. Seeing it in the context of the Opening Gala of the 59th BFI London Film Festival – keeping that American Express card forever – meant emotions were running high even before the opening credits. A biting speech about the relative lack of representation for women in film from BFI Creative Director Heather Stewart set the tone – around 20% of the films showing over the next 10 days are directed by women, which also represents the balance submitted for consideration. The thing is, women already know that women love films, watch films, spend money on films and want to make films. The message to the industry has got to be that films like this succeed, make money and have an audience way beyond some perceived niche. Better yet, given what a powerful and stunningly moving film this is, we don’t have to fake it to make it. We can throw our weight behind filmmaking like this with pride.

Suffragette is on general release from Monday 15th October.

Suffragette is on general release from Monday 15th October.

So let’s do it.

 

No disclosure: I attended in my own capacity as a BFI Member. And because I’m an enormous nerd, I wore green and white with purple eyeshadow. Thoughts on Trumbo and High-Rise now added.

See the program and get tickets for further #LFF events here.