Tag Archives: Kristin Scott Thomas

Movie Review: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Amazingly, I had never seen this movie until last week. I do remember the fervor for it when it first opened in the US, which was a ludicrous 18 years ago, but I believe it actually predates my anglophilia, which is (approximately) circa 2001. I remember not wanting to see it because I really dislike Andie MacDowell (still do) and Hugh Grant wasn’t famous yet. Also, I was about 13 when this came out, so it was not on my top ten list. I remember the Lion King being more my speed at the time. Forrest Gump, if I was feeling philosophical, or not in the mood to weep over Mufasa’s terrible death scene.

I digress! The point is, I just missed out on this movie, and finally decided to get my shit together and watch it.  Even despite Andie MacDowell, I really enjoyed it!

The plot mostly follows Charles (Hugh Grant), who is your typical Hugh Grant character, X 1000. He bumbles, he mumbles, he charms.  He meets Carrie (Andie MacDowell) at the first wedding, and is smitten immediately.

In a way very reminiscent of Love Actually or Notting Hill, the film also focuses on Grant’s group of close and quirky friends. These include:

Kristin Scott Thomas as Fiona, a bit of an ice queen,

gay couple Gareth and Matthew,

the oddball female character, Scarlett (see Penny from Notting Hill)

and a few others on the fringe of the action.  It’s a sense of an ensemble cast, which the British seem to do so well in film (and TV) without anyone feeling 1-dimensional or flat.

The plot is sort of the typical romantic comedy fare in the beginning–boy and girl meet, girl is taken, boy declares his love too late, girl changes her mind and they end up together.  But it’s also very different.

Take Carrie, the female lead.  At one point in the action she lists her thoughts on her 30+ sexual partners.  Can you see Reese Witherspoon doing that in a  modern RomCom and not being considered a slut? My favorite part of this is that she is not in any way ashamed or embarrassed of her list, and treats every one of the men as a learning experience, even if it wasn’t a pleasant sexual experience. Carrie is somewhat lacking in depth, as we usually only see her through Charles’ interactions with her.  What we do see, though, is someone really confident, independent, and lacking regret.  So I really like that, because fuck the typical women in these movies. They are terrible.

Also, how often does a RomCom focus on a male lead over the female? After all, if you live by the Sex and the City idea of life, women feel incomplete without a man, but men feel just fine regardless.

Two of the eponymous weddings are those of Charles and Carrie–to other people.  That is a bit of a surprise; definitely not in the typical RomCom formula.  Even more shocking, and perhaps my favorite part of the movie, is that the two declare their love at the end of the movie and then decide not to get married.  Ever.  In a movie so clearly focused on matrimony, the two couples who don’t get married–Charles and Carrie and Gareth and Matthew–are the most compelling in many ways.

These little moments and touches make me like this movie a lot more than I would if it was a typical RomCom. There’s something really refreshing about a love story that subverts your expectations, especially in a genre that so rigidly follows a very specific blueprint.

In fact, it’s almost like they are playing with those genre specifics, having multiple weddings and chances to enact the famous ‘If any person knows of any reason why these two should not be wed’ trope that happens in all of those movies. Having the female lead actually go through with marrying another man.

The movie takes place during big life events–weddings and funerals–but everything about the story relies on subtlety.  Charles slowly makes the change from a ‘serial monogamist’ to ready to commit (in part because he loses hope in the idea of true love) to, by the end, a self-awareness that allows him to pursue a path that will truly make him happy.

In addition to what is a very adult version of a RomCom, the film is also moving (funeral scene made me weep) and alternately extremely funny.  Highlights include Rowan Atkinson playing a bumbling Anglican priest, Hugh Grant’s speech as best man, the repeated scenes of Charles and flatmate Scarlett waking up very late for each of the four ceremonies, and Carrie going through her recount of bedfellows.

Another reason to watch is the ’90s fashion and the ludicrous hats the English wear to church. Why do they do this? Why do they still do this? I may have to do a future post about this millinery tradition.

Movie Review: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

This is another movie that I saw on the way home from London, on a plane. Yet again, it has a lot of visual appeal that probably would have been more effective on a screen larger than 7 inches. But I really enjoyed it regardless.

The plot is pretty simple: Emily Blunt works for a sheikh from Yemen, who wants to bring salmon fishing…well you get that part from the title. He has nearly unlimited funds, and wants to make fly fishing possible in his home country (as well as having a dam, etc. for agricultural development). Emily Blunt approaches Ewan MacGregor, a fisheries expert, to work on the project.

Ewan MacGregor’s part could easily have been played by a 60-year-old man, with no real differences in the script. He is not an old man, but he seems to be one inside. He wears argyle sweaters, he makes his own flies, he feeds his fish when he is upset.  He does have a sarcastic and cutting sense of humor, but other than that one aspect of his personality, he is almost emotionless. Emily Blunt’s character accuses him of having asperger’s at one point, because he doesn’t seem to respond to other people’s emotional states.  I think he’s just sort of stuck in a rut, letting life pass him by, before this opportunity comes in to shove him out of it. To say he is reluctant is an understatement. He thinks the project is impossible and even if it were possible, he thinks it shouldn’t be done. It’s ludicrous and a waste of time to even have a meeting about it.
Searching for a positive story from the Middle East to allay bad press over the Afghan war, the PMs Press Secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) pressures Ewan MacGregor and his boss into working on the project and getting it done, whatever it takes–that is when she isn’t swearing, threatening employees, chain-smoking, being a general despot, or playing video games with her son.  Her character is simultaneously incredibly un-likable and quite amusing.  So Ewan is forced to work on the project, to worth with Emily Blunt, to find creative solutions for problems like the fact that Yemen is hot and dry, and thoroughly unwelcoming to the salmon they’re hoping to introduce.

It’s a really beautiful and interesting movie about faith, hope, being a dreamer, going against the current, etc. etc. It can tend toward the cheesy of overly philosophical at times, but it’s not too detrimental. Ewan MacGregor’s character is really, truly adorable. I also think he has a lot of chemistry with Emily Blunt, so their relationship and friendship as it progresses is great to watch. The film has a great mix of serious, contemplative and funny, goofy without ever losing the point, the theme, the feeling of the movie overall.

My only complaint about it is the ending! I…I don’t want to give it away, but it made me sad. It picked up in the last moments, but the darkness sort of overwhelms the light.  I suppose that’s pretty realistic, in terms of our experiences in life.  But that doesn’t make it less upsetting.

The DVD Shelves: Gosford Park

This is hardly a new movie, in fact it’s over 10 years old, but I had never seen it and it stars just about everyone in the British film industry.  It got 7 Academy Award nominations, so that put it at the top of my Netflix queue. And, as I seem to be making my way through the entire Julian Fellowes oeuvre, this was next on the list.

It’s commonly referred to as a mystery-comedy drama.  Whatever that is.  It seems to put its feet into every genre and not become a part of any of them.  I don’t think I knew what to make of it, not having heard much about it before hand.  It starts out like your typical upstairs-downstairs drama, in true Downton Abbey style, with the introduction of about 20 people upstairs and 20 downstairs, and alternates between the two worlds.  And of course it is remnicsent of a typical Agatha Christie work, with the murder mystery element.  But it isn’t quite either of these things.

Whatever can be said about its not being committed to a genre, the cast is spectacular.  Maggie Smith, Clive Owen, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillipe, Kristin Scott Thomas, the list goes on. Gambon (aka Dumbledore 2.0) stars as Sir William McCordle, who is murdered (not once, but twice!) after a dinner party. Stephen Fry also makes an appearance, as a completely idiotic detective.

The most bothersome part of the movie was how confusing it was at the beginning. I could not, for the life of me, keep track of the character’s names, or who was married to whom.  I had to look up the Wiki page to try to keep track of all the marriages, because after initial introductions there was a good hour of gossip back and forth between other characters.

I wanted to like it, and on the surface it has all the elements I like in a movie/story.  British? check.  Historical? check. At least two Harry Potter actors? check!  But for some reason it didn’t particularly resonate with me.  There was too much mystery for me to focus on the class system politics, and too much social commentary to focus on the mystery.  For me, it lacked focus.

That being said, there were a lot of fun/interesting moments, Clive Owen was delightful, and Maggie Smith was spectacular as always.  She was born to play an upper class lady from the first half of the 20th century, yes?

I found it particularly interesting that Stephen Fry’s Inspector Thomson declares (obviously I’m paraphrasing) that they won’t need to question the servants (about who murdered Sir McCordle), only to people who really new him.  This is such a ridiculous notion, given the intimate details that servants were privy to in such a household.  It actually reminded me of a short story called “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, where a man is found dead in his bed, and the police investigate while their wives wait downstairs in the kitchen and sitting room.  The men are examining the crime scene, while the women downstairs find all the evidence of the husband’s cruelty and the wife’s probable guilt in the murder.  The men don’t find any evidence where they look, and the women hide what they find.  The point of the story (or one of them) is that men (or those in power) often lack a true understanding of the world because of their elevated place in it, whereas the lower people on the social ladder can see the truth of the world in its entirety.  Similarly in Gosford Park, the servants are able to discern who and why the master of the house was murdered, and similarly the matter is hushed up by them on the basis of his whole-heartedly deserving it.

Coming Soon

I thought I would take a day to look at what’s coming out of the UK and hitting our shores in the next few months. Warning though, this post is restricted in some ways to what appeals to me as an anglophile.  So, for example, if Big Brother UK is going to be on here, I probably won’t talk about it, because I don’t honestly care..

Films:

The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston (aka Loki from Thor).  Not to be confused with the Samuel L. Jackson movie of the same name.

This trailer isn’t anything spectacular, but the cast is.  According to Wikipedia, it is from a play by Terence Rattigan, about the wife of a judge who falls for a pilot in the RAF. Intriguing, could be good. Lots of good quotes on the trailer, but no telling if that translates to an actually good film. But it has been out since November in the UK, and currently has an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes, so I’m guessing it’s going to be fairly good. It comes out in limited release here March 30th.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Could there possibly be a more boring title? I can’t think of one. But, then you look at the cast: Ewan McGregor (doing his native Scot accent for once), Emily Blunt, and Kristin Scott Thomas. And I’m in.

Seriously, though the subject of salmon fishing in the Middle East could not be of less interest to me for many reasons, this looks like a really good heart-warming sort of film that I love.  This one is coming out quite soon; limited release this coming weekend! I am definitely looking forward to this film.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is it! I don’t think there’s any movie that I’m more looking forward to this year.  Can you believe the cast? Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, HP), Bill Nighy (HP, Underworld, Love Actually), Judi Dench (every period drama ever, the new Bond movies), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Penelope Wilson (Downton Abbey, Dr. Who), and Tom Wilkinson (tons of stuff, most recently Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol).  Seriously though, when the US does a movie with this many superstars, it is some absolute trash like Valentine’s Day or He’s Just Not That Into You.  But this is going to be brilliant, because not only are they quite famous in England, but they are famous for being actually good actors. Cannot wait for this movie! But I will have to, as it doesn’t come out until May 4th.

Books:

Some titles I’m looking forward to in the coming months include:

Britain, etc.–A nonfiction, light, trivia-based jaunt through Britain from A-Z.  Hopefully I’ll learn something and be entertained at the same time.

The English Monster–It’s historical fiction, it’s a murder mystery, it’s based on a true story.  Set in the early Regency period, based on some real murders. Difficult to think of dreadful murders going on at the same time Jane Austen was penning her lovely novels.  I have decided lately to get more into crime fiction and this may be one of my first forays into that oeuvre.

And of course, the unnamed J.K. Rowling book will be at the top of my reading list, no matter what it is about or when it comes out.  That’s just how it is.

TV:

Life’s Too Short: I’m watching this right now on HBO. It’s a lovely and ridiculous comedy starring Warwick Davis (Willow, HP films, etc.) as a warped and foul version of himself. It’s yet another Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant project, and expect a full review once the series is done. It’s brilliant.

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Whitechapel: This one is a modern police procedural starting with a Jack the Ripper copycat.   I am starting to be rather obsessed with Jack the Ripper! This was actually on BBC America last fall, but I missed it with the holiday rush. So I’m going to try to watch it now.

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Top Gear!: Anyone that doesn’t know about this show has my pity.  Ok, I should preface this by saying that cars are not of much interest to me.  I started watching this show with my bf because he loves cars and I love England, so it was a good fit.  But it is hilarious, one of the most popular shows in the UK, and lots of fun even if you’re not a ‘petrolhead’ as they call it. Season 18 starts in April. Also, do not confuse this with the American version, which has more cars and less class.

Here is a best of montage to wet your appetite: