It’s an eclectic old mix of films this week - taking in wrong identities, scary fantasy lands and cloned dogs for this week’s VoDFather.
As solid a character based thriller you can get, Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel sees Matt Damon take on the identity of another man, who attempts to take on more as he lies his way around gorgeous Italian locations. Matt Damon has put in many great performances but here his baby-faced physicality plays as big a part as the acting, looking handsome but like he doesn’t quite fit into his own skin, and behaving like a child with an overactive imagination playing a very dangerous game of dress-up. Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and a scene-stealing Phillip Seymour Hoffman all lend solid support. Law manages to have chemistry as effective with Damon as it is with Paltrow, the sexual tension between the triangle reaching boiling point in multiple occasions during the runtime and PSH doing his charming but rather sleazy thing with aplomb.
A very literary film which feels high-minded without much pretension, it walks a fine line of being intellectual while indulging rather baser instincts with a huge amount of class. For me Minghella’s most successful film (at least from those I’ve seen). Sure to look cracking in HD, this is a hardcore recommend from me.
Errol Morris isn’t a name you particularly associate with ‘fun’, much of his cinematic work being incredibly serious and challenging - such as The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line, amongst a great many other films. He decides to hang a little looser here with Tabloid, a film which doesn’t seek to name and shame those behind the traditionally tacky stories written by our red-tops but instead focuses on a multi-layered story which these papers would seize on with as much glee now as they did 30 years ago.
The stranger than fiction story tells of ex-beauty queen Joyce McKinney who fell in love with a man and either kidnapped him or set him free from a harsh, restrictive religion, using this as a platform to become tabloid fodder and becoming famous for being a quirky sort who knows what sells and what gets attention. Morris makes the very smart decision to let McKinney speak for and indict herself as she paints a tragic figure who just liked the attention. With contributions from people who knew her personally as well as a few folks who wrote about her at the time, it’s a surprisingly light and frothy piece which doesn’t have all that much to say that’s hard-hitting. Lord knows we are in for many of those types of films with all the problems with the papers over the last year or so, but instead this seeks to tell a story which only gets weirder with a figure at the centre who is a true one of a kind.
A film which is very much symptomatic of Disney’s famously wayward 1980′s period this, along with Something Wicked This Way Comes, shows us a Disney which has only really re-emerged over the last few years, one which isn’t afraid to take some risks and go straight up, balls-out weird, with Fairuza Balk’s Dorothy starting up here as a mental patient who has to save herself from getting a lobotomy. This truly isn’t Kansas anymore folks but there’s a hell of a lot to recommend here - with famed editing legend Walter Murch really pushing the boat out with imaginative production design and an approach to the material which aims to challenge the audience. There’s little to comfort the younger audience aside from a talking chicken which essentially takes the place of Toto.
Weirdness abounds here as ‘Wheelers’ become the bad guys, horrible distorted mechanical men with a taste for the dramatic. New sidekicks take the place of the famous trio of the previous film who only make cameo appearances here. Instead get a clockwork man and a rather terrifying pumpkin-headed gent.
It’s not for the little ones but as someone who saw this for the first time fairly recently, there’s much to get into here as an adult. There is a darker and more sinister tone to proceedings which may be an acquired taste but certainly worked for me.