Barney Thomson (Robert Carlyle), a barber, lives with his cold and domineering mother, Cemolina (Emma Thompson). He accidentally kills his boss at the barber shop which raises the suspicions of a police detective, Holdall (Ray Winstone), who suspects that he might a serial killer who's sending the police body parts in the mail. Meanwhile, his mother helps to cover up his crimes.
Although Barney Thomson sounds like it has a great premise for a funny, darkly comedic crime thriller a la Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Arsenic and Old Lace or Fargo, it falls short of being funny or even entertaining for that matter. Too much of the dialogue is filled with profanity and, while there's nothing wrong with vulgarity, it's done in a way that's more grating, tiresome and lazy rather than sharp and witty like the profanity-laced British comedy In the Loop. All the actors, especially Emma Thompson who's nearly unrecognizable, seem to be having fun in their roles although her performance like much of the film itself is so over-the-top that it becomes irritating. Unfortunately, Tom Courtenay is wasted because he has too few scenes as the police superintendent. With a smarter, funnier and wittier script by Richard Cowan and McLaren, Barney Thomson could have been so much more. Instead, it leaves you disappointed and hungry for more laughs, even during the outtakes. If only the audience were to have as much fun as the actors seemed to have!
Eye in the Sky
Hello, My Name is Doris
Still grieving over the recent death of her Doris Miller (Sally Field) lives alone in the home that she has always shared with her mother, and works a mundane job as an accountant. When John Fremont (Max Greenfield), new co-worker who's much younger than her, arrives at work, she instantly develops a schoolgirl-like crush on him. Her best friend's teenage granddaughter, Vivian (Isabella Acres), introducers her to the wonders of Facebook, and she decides to create a fake profile of a younger woman on there to learn more about John's interests so that she can somehow win him over in real life. She even goes to the extent of stalking him and his new girlfriend, Brooklyn (Beth Behrs), before becoming friends with both of them. Meanwhile, she sees a therapist (Elizabeth Reaser) to deal with the psychological issues tormenting her.
The screenplay by writer/director Michael Showalter walks a fine line between comedy and drama which is by no means an easy task to pull off. Comedy, after all, derives from tragedy (Charlie Chaplin would agree), so while the character of Doris has tragic elements to her, especially given her loneliness, neediness, insecurities and immaturity, her behavior tends to be outrageously funny as well although, to be fair, you might feel a little guilty for laughing at her. She's quite an complex character who's difficult to summarize in one sentence given that there's a lot going on inside her. Fortunately, Showalter found just the right actress, Sally Field, to bring the character of Doris to life in a way that's equally poignant and amusing. Thanks to Field's impeccable talent as an actress, she finds the emotional core of Doris and knocks it out of the ballpark with one of the best performances of her career.
It's during the third act where the film looses its momentum. Just when it tries to be serious and get to the root of Doris' problems, it shies away and oversimplifies things in a rather, rushed Hollywood fashion thereby diminishing the realism. Showing audiences Doris' fantasies repeatedly makes the film less subtle and trusting of its audience's imagination. Ultimately, Doris' character arc isn't believable nor does it seem that she's really changed by the time the end credits roll even though the film wants you to believe that she has changed innately. If Showalter would have mined the third act for more depth and maintained a sense of realism, Hello, My Name is Doris would have been much more powerful and resonating. Instead, by not dealing with Doris' physicalogical issues (especially regarding the most likely toxic relationship between her and her late mother), it feels undercooked and leaves you with more questions than answers.
In 1920s Paris, Marguerite Dumont (Catherine Frot) lives with her husband, Georges (Andre Marcon). She's passionate about singing opera, but there's one major problem: she sings off-key without even being aware of it. No one tells her that she's terrible at opera singing, and her kind-hearted butler, Madelbos (Denis Mpungas), goes to the extent of cutting out negative reviews of her singing after concerts so that she only reads the positive reviews. George isn't quite supportive of Marguerite, though. He cheats on her with a younger woman, Hazel (Christa Theret), and tampers with his car before he's about to take her to a concert so that the car would break down and she'd have to be late to the concert. Michel Fau (Atos Pezzini), an opera star, reluctantly agrees to become Marguerite's voice coach and ignore her bad singing for the sake of getting paid well.
How Marguerite manages to be in denial of her lack of talent, and how others enable that denial makes Marguerite an compelling character study. Hearing her sing off-key will make you laugh at first, but eventually there's a sadness and poignancy to it all that would make it mean-spirited to laugh. Marguerite seems to be like a child who believe in Santa Claus while everyone around her tries to do their best to maintain that fantasy for her because it makes her happy. Writer/director Xavier Giannoli and co-writer Marcia Romano do a great job of providing audiences with a window into the mind of Marguerite so that you'll find yourself caring about her and feeling sorry for her. The screenplay is filled with warmth, charm and wit with a nice balance between lightheartedness/frothiness and darker, somewhat tragic elements without going overboard in either direction. Everything on aesthetic level, from the production design to the lighting and custom design, looks exquisite and helps to enrich as well as to provide authenticity to the film.
Most triumphantly, though, there's the charismatic, genuinely heartfelt performance by Catherine Frot who's at her best here. She tackles the depth, nuance and complexity of the role with aplomb, so even when the film begins the drag a bit toward the end, you're still transfixed by her performance. Hopefully Meryl Streep will knock it out of the ballpark with her portrayal in the American remake by Stephen Frears later this year.
River of Grass