Daily Archives: April 3, 1995

Funny Bones

A lot of time is squandered in setting up this celebration of the English music hall by writer-director Peter Chelsom (Hear My Song). The needlessly cluttered plot offers an obscure intrigue involving French smugglers, and there’s a mainly wasted Jerry Lewis. But once the film settles in Blackpool, where the putative hero (Oliver Platt), a failed comic, goes in search of new material as well as his childhood roots, English music hall comics (Freddie Davies, George Carl, andespeciallyLee Evans) gradually take over the movie, and it gets better and better, eventually climaxing in a jaw-dropping finale. Passing compensations are offered by Lewis and Leslie Caron, and also on hand are Richard Griffiths and Oliver Reed; Peter Flannery collaborated on the screenplay. (JR)… Read more »

Jefferson In Paris

For many of its historical details, I found this James Ivory-Ruth Prawer Jhabvala account of Thomas Jefferson’s five-year stint as ambassador to France (1784-’89) a lot more absorbing and interesting than their usual brand of Classics Illustratedeven if the Gourmet-style consumerist spreads remain pretty much the same. But by the time they get around to articulating a story, the inhibitions imposed by their good taste begin to seem more like gutlessness, and what initially promises to be an exposure of American liberal doublethink about slavery winds up as a querulous wimp out on a subject that the underrated Mandingo is better equipped to deal with. I don’t feel qualified to comment on the accuracy of this portrait of Jefferson, but Nick Nolte does what he can to suggest unplumbed depths, and the other actorsincluding Greta Scacchi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Thandie Newton, Seth Gilliam, Simon Callow, Nancy Marchand, Charlotte de Turckheim, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Michael Lonsdale, and James Earl Jonesvie with the varied decor in holding one’s respectful attention (1995). (JR)… Read more »

Priest

After the film’s festival showings, scissors-happy Miramax trimmed eight minutes from this lively 1994 piece of exploitation about the travails of a gay priest in Liverpool, but it still packs a wallop; whether it can sustain much reflection afterward is another matter. It started out as a four-part TV miniseries scripted by Jimmy McGovern, who spent a day cutting away two-thirds of it when it got approved as a feature; director Antonia Bird (Safe) serves up the telegraphic remains in punchy docudrama style. Apart from the inner conflicts of a young priest (Linus Roache) who’s actively gay, the movie throws in his dilemma at being unable to expose incestuous child abuse revealed to him during a confessiona subplot handled in the style of a lurid horror thrillerand generally manages to whip up feelings of righteous indignation about the moral hypocrisy of various Catholic officials while adhering closely to the manner of 50s Hollywood-liberal agitprop. If entertainment passing as deep-dish soul searching is what you’re after, you won’t be disappointedthough with the use of You’ll Never Walk Alone on the sound track, it’s debatable whether the filmmakers know how to stop when they’re ahead. With Tom Wilkinson, Cathy Tyson, Robert Carlyle, James Ellis, Lesley Sharp, and Robert Pugh.… Read more »

Don Juan Demarco

A slight but charming parable with metaphysical undertones, this 1995 romantic comedy stars Johnny Depp as a 21-year-old who believes himself to be the famous Don Juan. After threatening suicide, he’s arrested and turned over to a psychiatric clinic, where a doctor on the verge of retirement (Marlon Brando) takes over his case, falls under the spell of the youth’s imaginary past, and finds his own romantic feelings for his wife (Faye Dunaway) rejuvenated. This first feature by novelist and psychologist Jeremy Leven has a fairly rudimentary mise en scene, but the actors take over the proceedings with aplomb, and Brando and Dunaway have the grace to turn much of the show over to Depp, who carries the burden with ease. Coproduced by Francis Ford Coppola. With Rachel Ticotin, Bob Dishy, Talisa Soto, Marita Geraghty, and Richard Sarafian. PG-13, 97 min. (JR)… Read more »