28 November 2016

Widows' Peak (starring Joan Plowright, Mia Farrow and Natasha Richardson)


I don’t remember why this DVD caught my eye; perhaps, as happens so often, Amazon recommended it to me based on something else I had liked. In any case, I put it on my wishlist and was given it for my birthday in the spring. We decided to watch it last night.

‘Widows’ Peak’ is set in a small Irish town, shortly after the first world war. So many women lost their husbands that this particular neighbourhood has become known as ‘Widows’ Peak’, ruled over the the domineering Mrs Counihan (brilliantly played by Joan Plowright). There are the elite in her circle, and the ordinary people of the town, and they rarely mix.

The one exception to widowhood is Miss O’Hare (Mia Farrow), who comes across as rather outspoken, even angry and it’s a bit of a mystery as to why she is part of the upper crust widows’ circle.

Into the fold arrives Edwina (Natasha Richardson) a young American woman who proceeds to charm almost everyone she meets, including Mrs Counihan’s thirty-something bachelor son Godfrey, who is very much tied to his mother’s apron strings. It’s a bit puzzling as to why Edwina is so taken with him, but no surprise at all that he is very taken with her.

The only person who does not like Edwina is Miss O’Hare who seems to take her in aversion from the start. It all seems rather puzzling, particularly when Edwina tries to offer friendship, only to have it rejected…

I thought the film was going to be a series of cameos of the life of these women, and enjoyed that aspect of it, but I gradually realised that there is also an underlying plot, one which becomes more convoluted towards the end of the film, in a series of unexpected twists and turns.

The scenery is sumptuous, the settings perfect, the acting giving just the right amount of caricature for light-hearted humour. The suspense is built slowly, almost imperceptibly, so that I didn’t quite realise that it was a mystery with a hint of thriller until the climax of the story. I had guessed some parts of the outcome, but not all, and thought it all very clever.

Rated PG, which reflects the lack of major bad language, and the family-friendly nature of the whole film. There are tense moments, and some mild fighting, but nothing to upset or offend anyone. Then again, it's the kind of film that's mostly going to appeal to older adults, and highly unlikely to be of interest to anyone under the age of at least fifteen.

Recommended.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews

02 November 2016

Not Another Happy Ending (starring Karen Gillan)

This isn’t a film I’d ever heard of, but our son is quite a fan of Karen Gillan - probably best known for her role as Doctor Who’s companion Amy - and brought it with him on a recent visit, so we could see it together.

‘Not Another Happy Ending’ features Jane Lockhart (Karen Gillan) as a successful writer who has been published by a small, almost unknown agency. Unfortunately, she’s the agency’s only success, and she’s so pleased with how popular her book is that she’s become, apparently, too happy to write.

She’s living with a rather arrogant screenwriter (Henry Ian Cusick) who is going to write the film of her book, and I found it a bit confusing that he looked rather similar to Tom (Stanley Weber) who clashes so much with Jane at the start of the book that he’s evidently going to fall for her…

The story is about Jane’s block and the tension in the publishing house, enlivened Tom’s efforts to try and make her unhappy to prompt her to finish her second book. There are brief forays into Jane’s difficult relationship with her father, providing some thoughtful background, and some surreal scenes when Jane’s protagonist apparently comes to life and starts hassling her…

The style was confusing to me, with some strangely angled shots that - so I was told afterwards - should have forewarned of what was coming, and some rapid passages of time to move the story forwards. There were mildly amusing sections, mostly involving Tom and his mate Roddy (Iain de Caestecker) as they came up with increasingly dubious ways to try and make Jane miserable.

It gives a few insights into life in a struggling publishing house, and the problems of an author who is feeling blocked, and the acting is mostly good, although some might struggle to understand the often rapid and quite strong Scottish accents (switching, a little erratically, to a French accent as far as Tom is concerned).

The storyline is predictable, which isn’t a problem with this kind of film, and the humour mostly understated, which is also fine as far as I’m concerned. Bad language is minimal, and there’s nothing explicit, although one rather unexpected nude scene (tastefully done) is probably what took the rating to 12 (12A in the US).

We didn’t dislike it, and it made a pleasant evening’s viewing, but it was nothing special. If you like Karen Gillan it certainly involves her and she plays the role well, but unless you’re interested in the inner workings of a writer’s mind, it might leave you a bit bemused.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's DVD Reviews