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FILM: April 2007

I enjoyed BECOMING JANE (cert. PG 2hrs.). Yes, it is a light, not terribly accurate fictionalised tale of the unconsummated great love of Jane Austen's life. But the acting is good, photography lovely, script OK and general humour pleasant. Jane (American Anne Hathaway with a passable English accent) meets impecunious lad-about-town Tom Lefroy (James McEvoy with an English, as opposed to a Scottish, accent!) and they immediately dislike each other. This grows into a mutual attraction as they spark off each other in a Pride & Prejudice manner.

Becoming Jane

Choices have to be made as he lives off his uncle and she needs to have a wealthy husband as the Austens are hard-up. Julie Waters and James Cromwell are amusing as the Clergyman and his wife and Anna Maxwell Martin as Jane's sister shows she is more than a TV actress. The setting is Hampshire, although filming took place in Ireland! If you are a Jane Austen fan you should enjoy Becoming Jane and, even if you are not, I believe that you will still find it pleasant.

Factory Girl

I did not know anything about Edie Sedgwick, who was, apparently, Andy Warhol's muse until I saw FACTORY GIRL (cert. 15 1hr. 31mins.). Sedgwick appeared to have it all at the beginning, very rich parents, beauty, talent and a special sparkle that was to make her, for a short while, a superstar. When she meets up with Andy Warhol the two become the centre of an artistic explosion. They are the icons that all in the art world admire. Unfortunately this world contains easy to get hold of drugs and Edie's life quickly plummets. Sienna Miller, as Edie, gives a terrific portrayal of the "it" girl who thought her life with Warhol was absolutely wonderful and then found herself friendless and hooked on drugs. Miller, who is developing into a real actress away from Jude Law has a great period look which suits her portrayal. Edie was known for her look - make-up and geometric short dresses or leotard and black tights - and Sienna, too, is known for her stylish dress.

While watching I often thought that I was seeing the real Warhol, so similar in appearance and vocally is Guy Pearce as the artist. Director, George Hickenlooper, has put together a good cast and his images of circa 1965 in New York are impressive.

AWAY FROM HER (cert. 12A 1 hr. 50mins.), released at the end of April, is a most moving film. Married for 50 years Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie Christie) seem to have a loving marriage, full of tenderness and humour. As we see Fiona begin to lose her memory - she can't remember some words or concepts and occasionally wanders away from home - we understand that there are some undercurrents from the past where everything was not so straightforward.

Away from her

But Grant wants his wife to remain with him and is very much against her decision to move to a retirement home that specialises in Alzheimer's disease, which, as she reads in books, is what is affecting her. One of the rules of the Home is that a patient may not have any visitors for 30 days in order to get used to their new surroundings. When, after a most painful separation, Grant visits his wife, he finds that she has forgotten him and given her affection to Aubrey (Michael Murphy), a mute resident. He reveals his imperfect history to a kindly nurse, but is still forced to watch his wife's devotion to another. When Aubrey's wife (Olympia Dukakis) withdraws her husband on her return from holiday, Grant visits her to discuss matters and we see how they all deal with the situation.

Away from her

Julie Christie, who has aged rather in the manner of Katherine Hepburn in a most genteel way, looks more glamorous than in previous films where she was supposed to look good. While the film in many ways captures a lot of the indications of Alzheimer's, it doesn't quite get to the utterly unkempt appearance and disregard for personal cleanliness and common courtesies that many sufferers fall prey to. All the roles are very well played and the photography of wintry Canada is excellent. 28 year-old director and writer, Sarah Polley, manages to convey the emotions of a couple facing the end of a very long relationship. It is good to see Alzheimer's portrayed as the illness it is.

Try, too, to catch THE NAMESAKE (cert.12A 2hrs. 2mins.), directed by Mira Nair: it accurately conveys the conflict people face moving from one culture and country to another and the impact this has on the next generation. Calcutta and New York come across as completely opposite and yet some images force one to stop and think before identifying which country they are from.

Also recommended is DAYS OF GLORY (cert. 12A 2hrs. 8mins.) for its depiction of recruits from African colonies used as second-class citizens by the French in their battles against the Nazis. This is one of the few films resulting in a change to the law - in this case the soldiers had their pensions frozen when their countries achieved independence. This was reversed following the premiere. Not as well-crafted as Clint Eastwood's two films on Iwo Jima, nevertheless it is a true story shown with integrity.

The namesake

A new print of the 1987 Joe Orton story PRICK UP YOUR EARS (cert. 15 1hr. 50mins.) has been released. This shows the many sides of the outrageous playwright (Orton is portrayed by Gary Oldman) and his lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina). Along with Orton's agent, Peggy Ramsay (Vanessa Redgrave) the three mock the rules of the establishment and play their part in Orton's eventual murder at the hands of his lover. With a witty script by Alan Bennett and excellently directed by Stephen Frears, it is well worth seeing again (or for the first time).


THEATRE TIP: April 2007

The Entertainer

Robert Lindsay has a hard job banishing the memory of Olivier's marvellous Archie Rice, but he almost succeeds in his great performance, dancing, acting and singing in a lively, moving production of THE ENTERTAINER (Old Vic). I missed Joan Plowright's straightforward interpretation of daughter Jean - Emma Cunliffe gives a workmanlike performance. While Pam Ferris is somewhat shrill as Archie's wife, John Normington fleshes out the racist, sexist grandfather.

Either Billie Piper is a most wonderful stage actress or she is being used unmercifully - and I fear it is the latter in TREATS (Garrick). Piper plays a young woman faced with the choice of sticking with her somewhat nerdy but reliable new boyfriend, Patrick, or returning to her former partner, Dave, who has abused her in the past and who shows no sign of reforming. Written by Christopher Hampton, the play was first performed in 1976, and is here directed by Laurence Boswell.

Away from Dr Who, and without the spiky eyelashes, Piper looks good. She is the focal point but hers is not the largest part. However, each character interacts with the other two on stage as a threesome and then as separate pairs and then alone. Piper gives an emotionally exposed performance, at one stage sobbing almost uncontrollably.

Treats

If she is in a fragile state in real life, then perhaps playing this kind of part with scenes such as this is actually bad for her. Fox (at the current time Piper's real life boyfriend) plays the nerd convincingly. Piper as Ann tells him, "It takes you 45 minutes to decide which pair of shoes to put on and you only have three pairs." The real find, however, is Kris Marshall as the bullying ex-lover. You don't know the name? Well, it's almost certain that you have seen him in a TV advert for BT. He is strong and a real bastard here and makes no attempt to make the audience like him.

Little shop of Horrors

There is also a revival of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (Duke of York's): a lively show that had the audience in stitches. A strange plant called Audrey 2 (the other Audrey is the female shop assistant) attracts customers into a shop on Skid Row, but it isn't long before the plant's feeding habits result in a reduction in the numbers of those visiting him.

I found the music terribly loud at times, but the singing was good, particularly the chorus of girls, as well as the workers in the Flower shop. A good set and fantastically ever-expanding plant give a polished look to the proceedings.

Carlie Newman

   
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