Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Infamous Driving Lessons

Sigh. So much talent and so close, yet so far from being satisfying. I was in a double feature of sorts today that left me itching to GET OUT of the theatre!

"Driving Lessons" (dir. Jeremy Brock, UK, 2006, 98 mins.) stars Julie Walters, Rupert Grint, Laura Linney and Nicholas Farrell (gawd, what a voice!) in a domestic/religious/coming-of-age/sort of 'Harold and Maude' kind of story. In other words, it's sort of a mess. Walters is great hamming it up as an over-the-hill actress who lures Grint away from his coldly religious and controlling mother (Linney) and his sympathetic father (Farrell), who happens to be a vicar. There is a line Walters speaks: "Just when you think it is over, life gives you a view like this and completely confuses you." This speaks volumes to the aesthetics of the film itself. The little dramas which make up the plot are just so precious and episodic that it is constantly jerking itself forward. But then, there is a priceless moment of acting or a breathtaking shot of countryside and you are involved again. Grint tries desperately to break free from his 'Ron Weasley' self, but to no real effect. Linney gives a complex performance to an undeservingly and underwritten role. But it is only worth seeing for Julie Walters' performance as a Grande Dame, a character that is an entire generation older than her 'Mrs. Weasley' to which she plays opposite Grint in the Harry Potter films. She's amazing to watch. However, the film just isn't.

Sadly, neither is "Infamous" (dir. Douglas McGrath, US, 2006, 110 mins.). It is a STAR STUDDED version of Truman Capote's research into the writing of "In Cold Blood." This screenplay by McGrath, is based upon the book "Truman Capote" by George Plimpton, which focused on Capote's life during his rendering of the stories of the murders in Kansas. What I am trying to say here is that there are WAY TOO MANY levels of dissolution of events to make this emotionally compelling. Toby Jones, the least well known amongst the cast, plays Capote as nearly a cartoon of himself. Which might have been the point, but I don't know. The supporting cast, led by Daniel Craig as the murderer Perry Smith, the relationship upon which the film focuses upon, and Sandra Bullock as Nelle Harper Lee, is generally quite good. Juliet Stevenson is outstanding as Diana Vreeland! Sigourney Weaver, Isabella Rossellini, Peter Bogdanovich and even Gwyneth Paltrow as a night club singer(?), pop up in here for various reasons that I am not completely sure of. Their interviews must be based upon Plimpton's format in the book. I found them to be sort of distracting if not distancing from the heart of the story.

Unfortunately, this will be held up against last year's "Capote", which is a much superior piece, if only for Phillip Seymour Hoffman's tour de force. "Capote" benefited from not being pinned down into a bio-pic of sorts in its screenplay. There are moments in "Infamous" which play TERRIBLY, yet the cast plods on. Craig and Bullock nearly single handedly save the film. Unfortunately, Toby's 'Capote' might be almost TOO accurate in his characterization of the subliminal and manipulative writer. He almost disappears behind the angst of Craig's murderer. But maybe that was the point? I don't know. I just know that I got quite anxious and bored with it. Sorry.


Maxxxxx said...

re "Driving Lessons": "What'cha doin'?"
re "Infamous": "Is it bedtime?"

JimmyD said...

But Toby Jones is wonderful as Dobby, the every put upon house elf in 'The Chronicles of H. Potter.'

jake said...

but did you see "the departed"?


Oh, same with "The Guardian"

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but you are wrong about Infamous.