Showing posts with label Olivia Williams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Olivia Williams. Show all posts

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Movie review - Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on Hudson was one of the movies on my must-see list when I whizzed up to London for a film preview day hosted by ShowFilmFirst.

Why? Firstly because it stars the brilliant Bill Murray as legendary US president Franklin D Roosevelt and secondly because the director is Roger Mitchell, of Notting Hill fame.

Most of the action focuses on the real-life visit by George VI and his wife Elizabeth to Hyde Park (Roosevelt’s summer residence on the banks of the Hudson River) in June 1939. With the storm clouds gathering over Europe and Britain preparing for war, the king was keen to ask for the president’s support.

The royals, however, are like fish out of water as they observe the comings and goings of the presidential household. Olivia Colman gives an impressive performance as Elizabeth, determined at all costs to keep a sense of decorum, worried that her husband is being laughed at and horrified that they will be expected to eat hot dogs during a picnic in the woods. Samuel West has the tough task of following in Colin Firth’s footsteps as George VI but manages it with aplomb (although every time he appeared on screen I couldn’t help thinking he looked exactly like Chancellor George Osborne).

The emotional heart of the film is Roosevelt’s relationship with his shy distant cousin Daisy, played by Laura Linney. Daisy is summoned to Hyde Park to keep Roosevelt company – and she quickly obliges. The pair begin a passionate affair, unperturbed by the numerous other women in the president’s complicated life – his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams), his domineering mother (Elizabeth Wilson) and his assistant Missy (Elizabeth Marvel).

Hyde Park on Hudson is beautiful to look at and Bill Murray gives a fine performance as the charismatic, wheelchair-bound Roosevelt. But to my mind The Ink Spots’ I Don’t Want to Set the World on Firepart of the soundtrack, just about sums up this movie. What could have been a powerful film turns into one that is merely enjoyable - no more than that.

Hyde Park on Hudson (certificate 12A) is released in the UK on Friday February 1.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Now is Good - trust me, you will cry

A word of warning. If you’re planning to see the movie Now is Good, remember to take tissues. In fact, remember to take a lot of tissues. I always cry in films but I don’t think I’ve wept so much since I watched Love Story as a teenager.

Now is Good is based on Jenny Downham’s bestselling young adult novel, Before I Die, which I read a few years back and, yes, wept buckets over. It’s interesting to discover, though, that Ol Parker, who wrote and directed the film, wasn’t totally convinced by the project when the producers first told him about it.

“When they pitched me a film about a teenage girl, with the title Before I Die, I almost passed before the end of the meeting,” he says.

“But they persuaded me to read the book and I found myself at two o’clock in the morning, blinded by tears, texting them and demanding that I be allowed to write and direct the film. The book is passionate, beautiful and brilliant, and paradoxically, fantastically life-affirming.”

I completely agree. The film is the story of Tessa, a feisty 17-year-old who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness. But instead of shutting herself away and feeling sorry for herself, she resolves to live her life to the full and do all the things she reckons a teenager should do - like shoplifting, taking drugs and having sex.

There was always the risk that the movie, shot on location in Brighton and London, could have been mawkish and over-sentimental. But in fact it’s every bit as life-affirming and inspiring as the book. It helps, of course, that the script is funny, touching and not in the least bit maudlin, and, of course, that the cast is a stellar one.

Hollywood actress Dakota Fanning, who plays Tessa, is by turns sharp, annoying, passionate and wise. But best of all, she comes across as a teenager you might actually meet in real life. And yes, her English accent is utterly believable.

Similarly, Jeremy Irvine, as Adam, the next-door neighbour Tessa falls in love with, is convincing and real. The young English actor is also jaw-droppingly handsome (you’ll recognise him as Albert Narracott from Steven Spielberg’s War Horse), so it takes a few minutes to concentrate on his acting rather than his exquisite profile.

Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams (in a blonde wig) give cracking performances as Tessa’s parents. No longer living together, they react to their daughter’s leukaemia in very different ways. While Tessa's dad has given up work to look after her and spends hours trawling the internet for a cure, her mum is positively flaky, turning up late for hospital appointments and panicking as her daughter’s condition worsens. Look out for young actress Kaya Scodelario (of Skins fame) too. She is clearly a star in the making as Tessa’s best friend and partner in crime Zoey.

So, yes, go and see Now is Good. But trust me, you'll cry…

Now is Good is in UK cinemas from September 19. Certificate: 12A

Now is Good by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books, £6.99). Originally published as Before I Die. 
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