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FILM:October 2013

IN A WORLD (cert.15 1hr 33 mins.) is a quirky comedy directed by Lake Bell and she is the writer and the producer. She also stars in the film, so basically the film lives or dies by Ms Bell's contribution! Luckily she is good in all aspects and the film is different from others on offer at the present time.

In the film Carol (Lake Bell) lives with her father and makes a somewhat poor living as a vocal coach while hoping for a better job. She would really like to join the trailer voice-over artists like her father Sam Soto (Fred Melamed), who, following the death of real-life Don LaFontaine (who opens the movie with the words of the title of this film) is now King. Sam, however, is more interested in grooming Gustov (Ken Marino) to be the next star rather than promoting his daughter's interests. Carol is finding out that the world of movie-trailer voice-overs is very much male dominated.

Lake Bell & Demetri Martin as Carol & Louis in IN A WORLD…

In addition she finds herself pushed out of her father's house when he brings in his new girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden) to live with him. She moves to live with her sister, Dani (Michaela Watkins).

Luckily Carol has a good friend in the cute sound engineer Louis (Demetri Martin) and he finds her a job doing voice-over. She does so well that she gets other jobs including beating the lothario Gustov to a huge job using the words "In a World…" Carol later has a one-night stand with Gustov who she meets at a party. He is unaware that she has stolen his job and vows to get his own back when he learns that it is Carol, without realising that she is his mentor, Sam's, daughter.

All is not so good with Dani, either. She and her husband, Moe (Rob Corddry) have marital difficulties and when she spends time with an attractive stranger, her husband leaves her. It is then Dani realises how much she loves him. Carol tries to mend their relationship and also build bridges with her egotistical father.

Very much about inter-generational rivalry but also, unusually, that between a father and his daughter, the film deals with these issues in a mature and most amusing manner. As an actress, Bell is excellent in her use of different voices and expresses the pain of being rejected by her father well. As a director she has gathered an impressive cast who work well with her and each other. There is even a little cameo in which Geena Davis gives a speech about advancing women in film. Bell allows the cast to gradually reveal different aspects of their characters and all portray them well. There is a most revealing scene at the end which throws quite a different light on Jamie, Sam's new girlfriend.

Set in the world of the industry, all the studio scenes were filmed at The Legendary Marc Graue Voice-Over Studios in Burbank. As a writer Bell has given us a witty script which zings along and shows she knows this world well and is a competent director. It is a charming film with no loud bangs, no car crashes, just a comedy about relationships, particularly that of a father-daughter competition. It is recommended.

Remaining a subject of interest to a huge number of people, the People's Princess, who died at a very young age in such tragic circumstances, is now the subject of a major film. Although it may be as much myth as fact, DIANA (cert. 12A 1hr. 43mins.) purports to tell the inside story of The Princess of Wales' (Naomi Watts) last two years. In particular it tells of the relationship between her and Dr Hasnat Khan (Narveen Andrews), the handsome British Pakistani heart surgeon, who stole her heart while she was visiting a friend's husband in hospital.

Between the story of the Princess' romance with the doctor, we see something of the charitable work she undertook. Director Oliver Hirschbiegel provides re-created scenes of her visits to Aid victims in Africa and other good deeds in the UK and abroad. Much is made of her efforts to bring awareness of landmines and their victims, including one brave walk through an area which had been cleared but was still the cause of the death of an aid worker previously. She steps forward alone and bravely and only confesses to being scared subsequently.

We are shown Diana preparing for her famous interview with Martin Bashir and then parts of the actual televised interview which, again, is re-created. It is this interview which leads to her final divorce from Prince Charles after some years of separation. There is a poignant moment when the princess berates the fact that she hasn't seen her sons for five weeks.

The divorce puts her relationship with Dr Khan on a different footing. He is now very concerned about how his parents view Diana and at first it seems as though they are happier with their son and his famous lady friend now she is divorced. The family welcomes her to their home in Pakistan, where she goes alone and is greeted by the whole extended family. So far the two have kept their love affair secret, but once he is exposed Dr Khan finds that he can't cope with all the publicity and the fact that he is treated differently by his colleagues at the hospital where he works. He keeps attempting to break up with Diana, although - as shown in this film anyway - they love each other.

Diana has a very strange relationship with the press as a whole, sometimes hiding her face and desperately trying to escape from the paparazzi and at other times actually phoning journalists to give them information on where she will be at a given time so that they can turn up with a photographer.

Between her affairs with Dr Khan and Dodi Fayed (Cas Anvar) and, indeed, when she is separated from Charles, Diana leads a lonely life and this part is portrayed well.

In real life Diana was like a stick insect with long, very thin legs and quite a long face. Naomi Watts is not particularly slim and her legs are of normal shape. The actress has a pleasant round face. In spite of the blond wig she wears, she does not look like the princess. Although she walks, talks and does the side glance looking upwards that Diana did adequately, she is not really similar enough. To have chosen an unknown actress who had the figure and face of the princess might have given a more realistic picture of Diana.

Douglas Hodge as Paul Burrell, Diana's butler and companion, appears often and one presumes that Burrell gave advice on Diana's actions around that period. Narveen Andrews makes a handsome, sensitive doctor and Cas Anvar is pleasant enough as Dodi Fared.

The script is rather poor and the direction pedestrian but as a light romantic tale of the life of someone who remains an iconic figure, Diana should appeal to Royalty watchers and others in need of fairly mindless easy viewing.

Also recommended: the new Woody Allen film, BLUE JASMINE (cert. 12 1hr. 38mins.) shows the writer director back on top form. Cate Blanchett is Jasmine who, finding her husband is a big fraud and she has now lost her palatial home and everything she held dear in the way of property and possessions, throws herself on the mercy of her working class sister and boyfriend (Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale). Very much a modern day Blanche Du Bois, straight out of A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanchett gives a wonderful performance in a film full of amusing lines and fine acting all round.

A cult film that has never gone out of fashion, THE WICKER MAN (cert. 1hr. 34mins.) is out now in a very good restoration of the 40 year-old classic horror movie. Written by Anthony Shaffer and directed by Robin Hardy it has an absolutely right-on performance from Edward Woodward as the policeman who goes to a remote Scottish island to investigate the whereabouts of a missing young girl and finds himself in the midst of very strange pagan rites and erotic couplings. With Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee and Diane Cilento and a smashing folk song background. See it once, twice or more, you will never be disappointed.

Are you interested in film? If you are, there is an exciting line-up for the 57th BFI London Film Festival which runs from 9-20 October 2013 which is screening a total of 234 fiction and documentary features, World, European or International Premieres as well as career interviews, master classes and other special events. You will be able to see the films at venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas to the BFI Southbank, the ICA, as well as local cinemas: Ritzy Brixton, Hackney Picture house, Renoir, Everyman Screen on the Green and Rich Mix.

The Festival opens with Paul Greengrass' CAPTAIN PHILLIPS a high-stakes thriller based on the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the U.S. container ship Maersk Alabama by a crew of Somali pirates with Tom Hanks playing the eponymous lead role. Closing the Festival is SAVING MR. BANKS, which tells the untold story of how Mary Poppins was brought to the big screen and stars Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. As last year the Closing Night red carpet event and screening will be screened simultaneously to cinemas across the UK. Other Galas include the highly anticipated Stephen Frears' film PHILOMENA, the true story of one woman's search for her lost son, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan ,and Steve McQueen's 12 YEARS A SLAVE starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, which has already picked up prizes at the Torento film festival.

I am looking forward to seeing the above as well as the Coen Brothers' INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, set in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960's and starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. The film took home the Grand Prix at Cannes earlier in the year. Also Jason Reitman's literary adaptation LABOR DAY starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin and Ralph Fiennes' second directorial feature THE INVISIBLE WOMAN staring Fiennes as Charles Dickens, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Hollander. Lots of famous guests are expected including Paul Greengrass, Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Stephen Frears, Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Eijofor, Alfonso Cuaron, David Heyman, Sandra Bullock, Joel & Ethan Coen, Carey Mulligan, Ralph Feinnes.






THE PRIDE on at the Trafalgar Studios (until 9 November box office: 0844 871 7627) is a study in the treatment of homosexuality in the1950s and in today's climate. sAlexi Kaye Cambell's play shows different scenes set in one or other of the two time-zones. What is most interesting is to observe how society deals with the subject in the two eras. Although prejudice is still with us, there is a huge difference in the way the law deals with those who are gay now and in the '50s.

Director Jamie Lloyd uses the same actors in different roles in the two time-zones. In the 1950s we meet Philip (Harry Hadden-Paton), who is an estate agent married to Sylvia (Hayley Atwell), but who, when introduced to Oliver (Al Weaver), finds himself attracted. Philip feels guilty, not only because he has a wife but also because the writer to whom he is drawn actually works with his wife as she is illustrating his book. In the present day scenario, although the names are the same, the characters are completely different.

Al Weaver & Matthew Horne in THE PRIDE

Modern-day Oliver is a freelance journalist with a lover called Philip. However, Oliver knows that he is addicted to casual sex with strangers. He is aware, too, that this makes Philip extremely upset and that their relationship is in danger because of this. He looks to his friend Sylvia for help. Although the scenes slip from one time to another, it is always clear where we are and who is speaking.

Very well acted by the small cast, Matthew Horne is impressive as a rent boy in costume. He gives a lively, amusing portrayal dressed as a gay Nazi officer. Later Horne appears, equally as effectively, as a wide-boy editor. Hadden-Paton manages to give a hint of the past in his present day character and Atwell brings out the difference between her two characters. The play is brought right up to date at the end curtain calls when the cast hold up placards declaring "To Russia with Love".

For another excellent piece of acting, hurry along to HYSTERIA at the Hampstead Theatre (until 12 October box office: 020 7722 9301) to see Antony Sher giving a very lively, energetic and amusing portrayal of Sigmund Freud. Terry Johnson who directs his own 1993 play shows us Freud meeting with Salvador Dali (Adrian Schiller), who visits him at his home in Hampstead - just round the corner from this theatre - in 1938. In addition to putting up with the eccentric artist, Freud has to contend with the intrusion of Jessica (Lydia Wilson), the daughter of one of his former patients who challenges him on his former theory on hysteria, which Freud originally attributed to real sexual abuse and later changed to saying it was actually the sub-conscious desires of the children themselves

There is also a very funny performance from David Horovitch as Freud's physician. Lydia Wilson, who has to run around in various stages of undress, is super as the young Jessica.

Lydia Wilson as Jessica, Antony Sher as Freud, David Horovitch as Yahuda, Adrian Schiller as Dali in HYSTERIA

The whole play works along the lines of an old Whitehall Theatre farce and there is much entering and leaving the main room where the play is set. Also we have trousers falling down and much other funny business. However, there is always a truthful sadness behind the laughter as Freud, now in his eighties faces cancer of the jaw and has to contend with fearing for the fate of his sisters who are part of Hitler's Kristallnacht.

Laughter behind the sadness - Terry Johnson and his wonderful cast provide plenty of both. Surely this would be a hit in the West End?

There is an excellent cast in BARKING IN ESSEX (Wyndhams Theatre until 4 January 2014 box office: 0844 482 5120), but the play itself is not magnificent.

Billed as a "new" comedy, it was actually written in 2005 by the late Clive Exton and, now directed by Harry Burton, stars Sheila Hancock as the mother of a criminally inclined family. As the play starts the mother, Emmie Packer (Hancock), son Darnley (Lee Evans) and daughter- in-law, Chrissie (Keeley Hawes) are about to welcome home from prison Emmie's younger son, Algie.

Lee Evans, Keeley Hawes & Sheila Hancock in Barking in Essex

The trouble is before he went into prison Algie hid a large stash of cash from his last crime and left the key to the safe box with his mother. She and the daughter-in- law have now spent all the money and live in fear of Algie's return.

Darnley knew nothing of this but is very disturbed at some of the other disclosures by his mother.

A mixture of out and out farce with a bit of a thriller element and shootings, the play has a very average script. What makes us laugh is the stage business performed by the good actors and, in particular, the very physical antics of Lee Evans. I found the constant use of 'cunt' a bit hard to take, especially from the mouth of lovely 80 year-old Sheila Hancock.

CANDIDE (RSC at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 26 October. Box Office (0844 800 1110) is described as 'inspired by Voltaire.'

L. to R.: Matthew Needham (Candide), Ishia Bennison (Countess), Richard Goulding (Playright)

Mark Ravenhill's Candide takes some of Voltaire's 18th century satirical novel's ideas and puts them in a modern setting, with scenes from the 18th century, in the age of Enlightenment. The relevance of over enthusiastic optimism in our own age is shown in a somewhat cynical light.

The play begins with a bit from the original book as a sick Candide, who has been saved by an old Countess who is smitten with him, is a spectator of a staging of his life by a writer who has actually stolen Candide's journal.

The fine line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred when Candide mistakes the actors for real-life people he knows.

The play then moves into the 21st century, and a scene where a girl, whose birthday party is being celebrated, turns and shoots them all (except her mother) in protest against global warming. And the play moves on between modern scenes and sometimes back to the 18th century. There is one telling scene in which Candide falls for the allure of gold while the ordinary people of El Dorado who live there prefer their own lives and refuse the gold. At the end the story is set in the future in a somewhat surreal laboratory known as the Pangloss Institute.

A very strange journey, then, for Candide, but all taking place in the excellently designed stylish sets of Soutra Gilmour. Somehow director, Lyndsey Turner manages to keep hold of the various threads and while it is sometimes difficult to follow, the journey undertaken by Candide is always thrilling to watch, considerably helped by the fine cast led by Matthew Needham's Candide, with Ian Redford as a pedantic Dr Pangloss and Katy Stephens as the survivor of the massacre. There is a background of live music by Michael Bruce played authentically by a group of most competent musicians. And all this in a welcome one hour forty five minutes with no interval.

Along with many in the audience, I really didn't know what to expect of the new play by Anton Burge, STORM IN A FLOWER VASE (Arts Theatre, London until 12 October. Box office: 020 7836 8463).

The play, based on Sue Shephard's biography of Spry, tells the behind the scenes story of Constance Spry (Penny Downie) who rose to become really the first expert on 'floral decoration' (as her husband keeps referring to it). She had quite a sexless life, while her husband, Shav (Christopher Ravenscroft) had affairs including with Spry's assistant, Val Pirie (Sally George).

Penny Downie as Constance Spry

Constance finds romance and then love at the hand of Gluck (Carolyn Backhouse), a painter and ardent lesbian. Spry is surprised by her own sudden attachment as are those of us who came to the theatre knowing little about Constance other than that she was a well-known society florist. The story is well brought out in a number of short scenes and, as portrayed by Penny Downie, we get a real feeling for the florist's character. Less so for her husband who doesn't really express his emotions to his wife.

A most interesting evening at the theatre with beautiful arrangements of flowers which are brought on and off the stage at appropriate moments in the play.

Moving, amusing and often very relevant to many marriages, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE (St James Theatre until 9 November. Box office: 0844 264 2140) is beautifully directed by Trevor Nunn with performances so realistic by Olivia Williams and Mark Bazeley as the couple, that it sometimes feels as though we are eavesdropping on real people.

This is a revival of Ingmar Bergman's play which many of you will remember from the original six part series on TV. The couple, Marianne (Olivia Williams) and Johan (Mark Bazeley) begin by being not only successful and wealthy with good careers and lovely children, but also very much in love. Over many scenes we see the marriage begin to fall apart until Mark says that he is in love with someone else. Although Marianne can barely accept this, she somehow learns to carry on and even has lovers of her own.

Scenes from a Marriage: Mark Bazeley as Johan & Olivia Williams as Marianne

But Marianne and Johan's story has by no means ended and the fascinating part of the play is watching how the joining together of this couple is proving harder to separate than it first seemed.

Bergman writes so well that all the scenes ring true - even the rather ghastly one where the couple fight and actually hurt each other. The play is also acted with wonderful emotion and clarity of character with a good rapport between the couple. One can really believe in them as a pair of lovers and almost understand the disintegration of their seemingly perfect marriage.


Carlie Newman

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