A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Pride (Matthew Warchus, 2014)

The success of The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997), a movie about unemployed steelworkers who become male strippers, seems to have inspired a new genre of feel-good movies about the struggles of the British working class. And Margaret Thatcher's union-breaking efforts during the 1984 coal-miners' strike has become the nexus for a series of films in the same spirit. The year before The Full Monty, there was Brassed Off (Mark Herman, 1996), about how the brass band staffed by unemployed coal miners helped raise spirits after their pit was closed. There was Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry, 2000), about a striking miner's son who wants to become a ballet dancer. Like The Full Monty, it became a hit stage musical. Unfortunately, once you have a string of movies like these, you also have a formula to follow, which Stephen Beresford's screenplay for Pride, in which a group of gays and lesbians in London decide to raise funds to support striking Welsh miners, does almost to the letter. It's based on a true story, and the results are amusing and heart-warming, but a feeling of déjà vu works to prevent your feeling that you've seen anything fresh and surprising. What it has going for it is a beautifully committed cast, with some familiar old pros -- Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, and Dominic West -- and a few fine newcomers, particularly Ben Schnetzer, an American actor who launched his career in Britain. (An interesting reversal, considering the number of Brits, including West in The Wire and The Affair, along with Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead, Matthew Rhys in The Americans, and Hugh Dancy in Hannibal, who have found their careers flourishing in American television.) The film capitalizes on anti-Thatcher sentiments while downplaying the contemporaneous arrival of the AIDS crisis. There is a scene in which the group's leader, Mark Ashton (Schnetzer), encounters a former lover (a cameo by Russell Tovey) who is obviously ill, and a revelation that Jonathan Blake (West) was diagnosed with the disease several years earlier, but these are incidental to the main plot. The movie manages to avoid spoiling the feel-good mood by revealing only in the credits sequence that Ashton died at the age of 26 in 1987; Blake, however, is still alive.