One of the biggest shames in the world is that Annette Bening still does not have an Academy Award. I think she is one of the best actors out there today. One needs to just watch ‘Hope Gap’ to see that – this is a woman who lives in every character she portrays. In this film, directed by William Nicholson (and based on his play) she plays Grace, a woman who has been married to her husband of almost twenty nine years. Grace can be insufferable – she is overly dramatic, in the hopes of any kind of reaction from her husband (Bill Nighy) who seems to have checked out of the marriage. Well, it turns out he is in the throes of checking out – he has met another woman, and has planned to leave Grace. Blindsided, Grace reacts passively and violently all at the same time. She screams, she shouts, she stalks. In the hands of a lesser actress, the effect would be shrill – but there is a lot of layers in Bening’s performance that you instantly understand what Grace is going through, This is an actress who makes you believe.
Too bad the film can be sometimes too genteel. Nighy’s quiet resigned performance is perfectly matched. Josh O Connor (he is everywhere these days, and thank you Lord for that) is fantastic as the son caught between the parents. But I like genteel – I love most of the aspects of the film, from Grace’s obsession with poems, to the breathtaking views of the cliffs in Seaside, England. I so wish Bening would get notices for this role, but I think the film is much too subtle. Still, watch this for a living legend in action.
Valentine’s Week Pick
I have been wanting to see ‘Only You’ for a while now. Someone told me it’s a very romantic movie, and well, you know how I love those. It also stars Josh O’Connor, who I really liked in ‘God’s Own Country.’ And it is set in Glasgow, and the place is photographed beautifully. The Anglophile in me feasted on all of what I saw. The film starts out as a conventional romance – they meet cute fighting for a cab on New Year’s Eve, and they instantly fall for each other soundtracked by Elvis Costello’s ‘I Want You.’ So far, so good for the hopeful romantics like me. O Connor and Laia Costa have palpable chemistry – they sizzle on screen, and the film feels intimate – you can really sense the characters falling in love with each other. This comes early in the film, and I was trying to ascertain where the conflict will be – will the age differences between the characters really matter? I mean, this is 2020, no one cares about those things anymore.
That’s when the film falters for me. The couple tries to conceive a child and has a difficult time doing so. I started to not care about Costa’s Elena, who started to feel whiny and entitled. O’Connor is fine as the young man who adjusts to her whims, and he is a charismatic actor. But Costa is perhaps too good at conveying her frustration which translates to my frustration. I started to not care about what happens to the couple. I wanted Jake (O’Connor’s character) to wake up and leave Elena.
And when they finally separate, we get the last part of the movie. There’s a scene in a restaurant towards the end that is masterful in conveying in showing what happens to love after it gets to put through all the tests. This is a film that is a lot of times hard to look at, but it feels more real than anything I have seen recently.
It’s the weirdest thing. Autumn de Wilde’s ‘Emma’ check all the boxes in something I would love in a film. Jane Austen – check, romanticism – check, period piece – check. But about half an hour into it, I still was a little disengaged by the film. Sure, there are great performances, especially by Anya Taylor Johnson (int he title role) and Bill Nighy (playing Emma’s father) Plus there’s Josh O Connor, my newest crush, playing Mr. Elton, but nothing is landing for me in the film. Maybe I was exhausted from work and that is affecting my view of the film? Admittedly, the second half of the film perked up for me, but by then the moment has already been lost. One of these days i will see this film again and maybe it will be a better watch for me.