Can You Ever Forgive Me? Review.

 

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“Back once again.” The reviews are back! Ger Canning has uttered this iconic phrase in countless G.A.A. matches broadcast on live television over the last number of decades. I reached out to him to ask would he record it for me so I could have it playing whenever someone opened an article of mine. Ger, ever the joker, replied via his family, agent and the Gardai, and said, “For the last time, leave me and my family alone. I rue the day I stopped and talked to you in Tesco in Mahon Point. Legal action will follow unless you stop cold calling me in the middle of the night. I don’t know how you got my house number. I am a human being and you are driving me insane. May God have mercy on your soul.” Ah Ger, what a chancer. If you’re reading this, I’ll get onto you later around 2 a.m. Keep the phone on!

Now, onto serious stuff. The movie Can You Ever Forgive Me? caught my eye due to the many nominations the cast received across multiple academies and committees. Also, it was the only thing that I knew would be quiet at my local cinema, the Reel Picture Blackpool ( hashtag ad). I knew it wasn’t a comedy but with Melissa McCarthy leading and Richard E. Grant in a prominent supporting role I had a feeling there would be some comic moments.

McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a down on her luck author who has just lost her job for drunken behaviour, has a fraught relationship with her agent and is months behind on her rent. Israel does not have any redeemable qualities that we can see and is told by her agent that she, “…is not famous enough to be an asshole.” She has a sick cat that she cannot afford to take care of and the biographies that she is writing to stay afloat are on the sale rack. After selling a letter of a famous author toa bookshop owner played by Dolly Wells, she quickly realises that she could make a hefty profit by forging letters of other well known figures. She has made a living writing books about other people so she knows she can impersonate them in her letters.
She meets Jack Hock, played by Grant, at a bar in Manhattan, remembering when she first met him and he went to the bathroom in a closet (hashtag Jonny Melia, hashtag ad). Hock is hilarious, flamboyant and the perfect positive tonic to Israel’s cynicism and misery. After letting him in on her secret cash cow and after duping half of Manhattan’s bookshops and collectible dealers into believing her ruse, she and Hock come under the suspicion of the FBI. Sabotaging her rathionship with Anna, the bookshop owner and Hock himself, Israel is finally caught and sentenced to house arrest, probation and monetary restitution.
The movie ends with Israel and Hock reuniting in the same grimy bar they met in. They bury the hatchet and he agrees to let her write a book about their escapades, ever his funny, charming self. This never happened in real life but it was a good end to a fine movie.

The movie itself is enjoyable if a bit slow. The topic of literary forgery does not sound all that interesting but the revelations that there are seedy characters in the literary world such as Israel herself, made it an easy watch. The fact that the FBI were involved in her subpoena was amazing to learn. The dynamic between McCarthy and Grant was brilliant and really saved the movie from being a bore. That said, it dragged towards the end and I did find myself looking at the clock on my phone. While I know that with a film such as this the devil is in the details but if the movie was about fifteen minutes shorter then it would’ve been a small bit more enjoyable.
I couldn’t think of anyone that I would recommend the movie to after watching, but it wasn’t a total waste of an hour and forty minutes. If I was to give it a rating out of a number that I will make up right now, I would give it a 3.5/5. Some funny moments but I’m not sure if this book warranted a movie. That said, the performances of McCarthy and Grant saved this production and both, especially McCarthy, deserve their nominations.

 

Bohemian Rhapsody: The Show Will Go On

The long awaited Freddy Mercury bipoic opened on Thursday evening in North America to rave reviews. It raced to the top of the weekend’s box office with a projected $35-40 million return. It has beaten out all the other openers this weekend and rightly so. I went to see it in the middle of a split double shift, meaning eight hours on, eight hours off and eight hours on again. I didn’t expect to stay awake throught the whole thing after only a few hours kip but I was rapt with attention throughout.
The film throws up few surprises if any. I saw a few people write that it was predictable and formulaic. I mean, obviously. It’s a biopic of the most popular and most documented frontman in the world. Before the time of smartphones recording our every move, Mercury was in the limelight all the time. Add to the mix that he was a gay man in the ’80s, I think its fair to say that a lot of what he did musically and personally is already well known. Despite this lack of surprise, the movie keeps the viewers attention through witty interactions between the band, tense moments towards the end of the movie and of course, an astounding soundtrack. It helps that the soudtrack is all the band’s catalogue. That band being Queen, in case anyone didn’t know.

Rami Malek is Freddy Mercury. I don’t mean that he is the actor playing the icon, I mean that in this film he IS Freddy Mercury. He inhabits the character and sometimes you almost forget that it isn’t Mercury playing himself with actors surrounding him. That said, Gwilyn Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzelo as John Deacon are all fantastic. Aiden Gillen, Allen Leech and Aaron McCusker are three major Irish talents who star in the movie. Gillen has the same raspy voice as every other character he plays, being John Reid, Queen manager, in this film. Leech, of Downton Abbey fame, plays Paul Prenter, a long-lurking snake in the grass. McCusker plays Mercury’s final love, Jim Hutton. All three put in sound performances with Leech excelling as the slimy Prenter who is intent on playing Freddy against his family, the band.

I listen to Joe.ie and their film review podcast which is very good. They thought that the film was bad and cheesy and only people who didn’t know the full history of queen would enjoy the film as a whole, and not just Malek’s performance. Even though I can see where they are coming from I have to disagree. The film might be a bit jumpy and the early parts of the film seem a bit cheesy but as a whole, the film is very good.

The film comes to an end after the epic 20-minute finale, an almost identical replica of the Live Aid set that Queen performed. Instead of depicting his final years in which he was ravaged by AIDS, some screen caps explain that he died in 1991 and that a charity was set up in his honor to help AIDS victims worldwide. This is extremely fitting as a half an hour before, Mercury, after telling his band and friends that he has the dreaded disease, says, “I will not be their poster boy, their cautionary tale…”. Instead of showing him at his weakest, we see him go out on that incredible high of performing to billions of people all around the world and holding them in a trance like only Freddy Mercury could.

On a related note, are films coming out earlier in Ireland than America? Thought it would be the other way around. On another related note, I’ve been blasting Queen all day and night after watching the film. Shout out to my music teacher Ms. Lucey for introducing us to A Night at the Opera. On an unrelated note, I’m absolutely wrecked and want to sleep for a thousand years.

A Star Is Born: Review

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A bit late to the party here but I finally got to check out Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, a retelling of A Star is Born. This is the fourth version of the 1937 original film, with Judy Garland playing the star in 1954 and Barbra Streisand playing the same character in 1976. Lady GaGa and Bradley Cooper play the two main characters. Gaga is Ally, a waitress and sometimes performer named Allie, who is discovered by alcoholic and worn out country music star Jackson Maine, played by Cooper. The cheek of him putting himself in his own film. Brazen out!
The film follows the romance that immediately blossoms between the two and the burgeoning career of Allie as she eventually begins to outshine her lover and partner. She lands record deals and primetime entertainment television show appearances while he is being replaced in Roy Orbison tribute bands. Cooper’s Jackson slides deeper into depression and begins to lose his battle with addiction. Following a successful stint in rehab after almost ruining Allie’s career in a drink and drug fuelled Emmy Awards Night (as per), he realises he is holding her back. In a gut punching ending he sets her free and Allie delivers us his final gift: a love song he wrote for her in the event that he would ever leave. We finish with a close-up on her face as she looks deadpan into the camera and although she has made money and won awards throughout the feature, finally a star is born.

Personally, I think that I let too many people tell me this movie was brilliant before I saw it. It was good. It was really good. I love a good rom-com and I love a good musical. As much as they tear me apart Lisa I love an emotional ending. This movie had every one of those in spades and I really enjoyed the movie. However, I had read so many good reviews and heard tell of the wonders of the movie that I just had too high of an expectation. The Imdb rating is also 8.3 which should make it one of the best films of all time. Voting systems can be skewed but I would put the rating in the mid 7s.
The film starts out slow despite the presence of some boozy rock n’ roll and riveting French tones. After Allie joins Jack on tour the film becomes more lively but as a result of this it almost becomes too jumpy. Granted, I am being a bit too critical here because at 136 minutes, the film is long enough but still, it could have been fleshed out more. We jump from the lovers being happy and joyous to being at each other’s throats the next. Perhaps that’s a perfect reflection of the rock and roll/popstar lifestyle coupled with addiction and I’m just a doorman on the nightshift who’s more Indie pop/rock and IPAs. C’est la Vie.

I truly did think this film was fantastic. The soundtrack is brilliant and there are some standout tracks climbing the charts right now. The best part of the film was definitely the chemistry between Cooper and GaGa. Lady’s acting wasn’t on par with someone with the calibre of Cooper throughout the whole film but there was a rawness about her performance that struck a chord (pun intended). It also helps that she has an amaxing voice and is already a global superstar. The scene where she is dragged on stage to sing her original song with Cooper that he arranged for her is nothing short of spine-tingling. Her unsuredness and half-embarrassment at singing her song is adorable and makes you root for the character from there until the end of the film. So go for the tunes, go for the emotions. Go if you want to see Lady Gaga’s nipple around halfway  through the movie. Go for the love of it all!