23 October 2016

Enchanted April (starring Josie Lawrence and Miranda Richardson)

I’m not entirely sure why this DVD was recommended to me. I’m not sure I knew of any of the cast, but Amazon seemed to think I would like it, and the blurb sounded good. So it went on my wishlist, and I was given it for my birthday… two and a half years ago.

‘Enchanted April’ has been in our to-be-watched DVD drawer all that time, but we finally decided to watch it last night. Apparently it’s based on a 1920s novel, and it felt rather that way; having watched the film, I suspect that it’s probably not a novel I would have enjoyed.

The main characters are Lottie (Josie Lawrence) and Rose (Miranda Richardson). Both are young married women, neither of whom is entirely happy in her life or marriage. Rose’s husband is a novelist who spends most of his time out, without her, and Lottie’s husband is an uptight lawyer who makes her account for every penny. Lottie happens to spot an advert for a holiday in a castle in Italy, and persuades Rose to go with her…

They advertise for further companions, and are joined by the elderly Mrs Fisher (Joan Plowright) and the spoilt, beautiful Lady Caroline (Polly Walker). When they arrive, the peaceful, attractive environment of the castle and its grounds works a kind of magic on all of them, in different ways…

And that’s it, really. The scenery is stunning, the acting excellent. I particularly liked Mrs Fisher’s excellent timing and gradual transformation.

However I found Lottie a bit overwhelming at times, as she can’t seem to stop talking; I really disliked her husband. And it was all rather slow-moving. I didn’t dislike it; indeed, the conclusion of the story, such as it is, is encouraging and satisfying.

But it didn’t grab either of us, and I found myself glancing at the clock in the last half hour, rather than absorbed in the film. It’s not as if it’s over-long, either; it’s only just over an hour and a half, but not a great deal happens during that time.

I’m glad we finally watched it, and I did enjoy the scenery and the walks, but it’s not a film I’m likely to want to watch again.

Rated U in the UK, and PG in the slightly more cautious United States. There's no violence or intimacy or indecency, and only the mildest of language, but there are scenes showing both smoking and drinking. However, I can't imagine that this would be of the slightest interest to children.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews

11 October 2016

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (starring Frances McDormand)

I think this film was recommended to me by Amazon a while ago. It went on my wishlist, and I was given it for Christmas nearly two years ago. It took all this time to decide to watch it; and what a treat it turned out to be!

Set in the 1930s, the film stars Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, a rather dowdy middle-aged woman who has just lost her job. It appears that she’s somewhat unconventional in her style of work, and the employment agency don’t have anything for her. And then her day gets worse….

Eventually she finds herself at the plush apartment where Delysia, a night-club singer (Amy Adams), is panicking. The place is in chaos, and there’s a young lover in her bed. The apartment belongs to another man, whom she is rather afraid of… she’s glitzy, talented, and rather too addicted to men.

The contrast between the two women is dramatic. Delysia sees Miss Pettigrew as her saviour, however, and the film follows the day that they spend together, untangling Delysia’s love-life and determining her future.

The settings are realistic, the storyline unusual, and the acting mostly excellent. Inevitably there are caricatures, but it’s that kind of film: people behaved in character, if perhaps a bit exaggeratedly so. The pace was just right for our tastes, though it’s not going to appeal to those who want fast action. To lift a little from the humour, and show the serious setting of the frivolous lifestyles of nightclub singers, there are hints - and more than hints - of the coming world war.

There’s no real plot or storyline, it’s more a story of transformation: as Miss Pettigrew, as Delysia’s social secretary, gets her out of trouble repeatedly, she discovers new things about herself and makes new friends. The ending is unrealistic given that the events and meetings that take pace over a single day, but it doesn’t matter; it’s all highly satisfactory, and very nicely done.

We both enjoyed this film very much.

Rated PG, although I’d have thought the innuendoes and implications would have made it 12. Indeed, in the more cautious United States, the rating is PG-13. Still, there’s not much violence, and nothing explicit, nor is the language too ‘strong’. I don’t suppose it would appeal to children anyway.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews

03 October 2016

The Devil Wears Prada (starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway)

Although I’ve seen this film recommended to me several times, probably because I enjoy Meryl Streep’s acting so much, it had somehow never appealed. The title is rather off-putting, and the theme, I gathered, was related to high fashion, a topic which does not interest me in the slightest.But when I saw the DVD for a pound at a UK charity shop, in excellent condition, I couldn’t resist.

I’m glad I went ahead and bought ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, because it was a surprisingly enjoyable, if undemanding film. Anne Hathaway co-stars as the somewhat hapless Andrea who wants to be a journalist but manages to walk into a job she knows almost nothing about, working as a personal assistant in an exclusive fashion magazine office.

While Anne Hathaway is great in the role, it reminded me forcibly, more than once, of some of her other roles; in particular as the frumpish princess in the ‘Princess Diaries’, and also as Cinderella in ‘Ella Enchanted’. She’s grown up a bit in this movie, but looked fine to me at the point where the entire staff of the fashion store were laughing at her and calling her ‘fat’. Her eventual transformation is rather inevitable.

Meryl Streep, however, shows, once again, her amazing versatility, in a role unlike anything I have seen her in before. She plays Miranda, the owner of the fashion magazine, a snobbish, bullying and frankly nasty person who seems to care little about anyone other than her spoilt twin daughters.

While much of the fashion discussion left me mystified, the storyline is essentially character-based, charting Andrea’s gradual successes which are only in part due to her make-over, and contrasting them with what - and who - she begins to lose. She has to make a lot of difficult decisions, and I didn’t know how the film would end; it could have gone either way.

I didn’t find the film particularly amusing, although there were some light-hearted parts, and it didn’t need a great deal of thought. But I liked the theme of making conscious choices about careers and relationships, and the way the film clearly shows - without being too overt about it - how easy it can be to become unpleasant, even vicious to one’s colleagues and friends when ambition is too strong.

Overall, it made a pleasant evening’s viewing. Rated 12, presumably for the relatively mild bad language. But as far as I recall there’s no violence, and no overt scenes of intimacy or anything else that would warrant a rating above PG. Not that I would expect it to appeal to children or younger teenagers, particularly.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews