Tag Archives: Philip Seymour Hoffman

For The Love of Gwynyth

A strange thing happened to me last night that very rarely occurs but did last night in the most unexpected of ways.

Gwyneth Paltrow came on screen and I YELPED.

Yes faithful readers, like a dog….. A small dog.

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This is a picture I remember watching not long after its release and thinking little of it. Matt Damon is generally decent, Jude Law and Ms Chris Martin Paltrow are generally banal, hence the lack of tangible enthusiasm for revisiting the flick. Fate led me by the eyes however following a decision to do my dissertation on the ethics of adaptation, a viewing of PLEIN SOLIEL and the reading of the excellent Patricia Highsmith book on which both films are based….. It was time to head back to Mongibello.

THE Talent

In respect of being honourable to the source material, Anthony Minghella’s screenplay sticks to the structure of Highsmith’s original work far closer than it’s older French cousin. We are very quickly introduced to Ripley’s fantastic world where the desire to rise above his lowly social status is all consuming. This Ripley as not the pathological character Highsmith dreamt up, but still carries with him a creepiness that never allows you to get comfortable with him.

I was pleased that Minghella retained Papa Greenleaf’s plea to Ripley to travel to Europe to return his wayward son Dickie. This element of the book provides a constant narrative thread as well as a further motive for Ripley’s actions, Dickie lives off his father’s wealth which requires his regular correspondence, Tom just happens to be a master impersonator. This is the life Ripley feels he deserves though he has no reason for believing so. These two facets of his personality were always going to be a catalyst for trouble.

Disappointment came with Ripley’s initial social standing. In the book he lives in the crummiest of abodes, filthy and rundown. In the film, despite hearing a couple arguing in the flat above, he seems to live in the kind of place a Greenwich Village bohemian might frequent, tuning into Charlie Parker and Chet Baker in preparation for his future encounter with the Jazz loving Dickie.

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In the interests of cinematic pace (although this is still considered the slowest part of the film) the friendship that blossoms between Dickie and Ripley is intense and rapid. Contrary to the book, Dickie’s girlfriend Marge, adequately dealt with by Paltrow, is instantly taken by the newcomer and the two also develop a bond. This is neat screenwriting. Minghella has cut out much of the time from the novel that Dickie and Tom spend together; this gives no motivation for Marge to dislike him so much which also makes her change of opinion later in the film all the more powerful.

The friendship between the two men has a distinct homoerotic hue to it. One only has to look at the chess in the bath scene. This is also a factor of the Freddie Miles relationship, camped up by an ever reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman. What transpires is a love triangle between the 3 men with Marge reduced to the role of mildly attractive screen furniture.

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“But Paltrow made you yelp” I hear you think silently…

She did.

And I’ll tell you why.

Following the disposal of Dickie in a brilliantly staged boat scene (EXACTLY as I pictured it when reading the novel but with a more pronounced emotional angle) Tom takes up the role of Master Greenleaf whilst the police try to find the killer of Freddie Miles. (Also disposed of by Ripley when he rumbled his scam) It’s this section of the film that lacks the tension of the book but it does score in one respect….. Gwyneth Paltrow.

In the book Marge does not leave Mongibello to look for Dickie, she’s in constant contact through Ripley’s forged letters, and believes he’s alive, but she doesn’t think to travel for a confrontation. This after being inexplicably dumped like a hot stone…… in the film she does, and it’s that first time she bumps into Ripley in Rome that has me squealing like a baby. “She’s not supposed to go to Rome!!!!”

And here’s where literature and cinema come together in perfect harmony. You only have 2 hours to tell this story and you’ve got to make the film audience taste the suspense of the book….. Minghella does a fine job, a real fine job.

Should we sympathise with a man who has killed twice by such brutal means? In the case of Tom Ripley, it’s hard not to. He doesn’t do anything throughout the film to alienate the audience besides be a little clingy, he’s like the guy at school who no-one hung out with but was really rather cool when you took the time to speak with him. Do we want him to get away with it? That’s a completely different question and one which the movie answers completely differently to the novel…..

I take it all back….. This is a fine movie.

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The Oscars (better late than never)

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It’s been a busy few weeks but the intention HAD been there to do an Oscars prediction post. Good old Matt had inspired me in his own inimitable way to take in the films and, with the exception of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (and THE READER…. hmmm), I’d managed to see the top contenders for the main awards in good enough time to make a set of, maybe not predictions, but bold claims on who should win.

So here we go, who won and who (I think) should have won…….. I didn’t do incredibly well in terms of agreeing with the academy. I’ll only cover the big 6 or I’ll be here all night….

BEST PICTURE
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Now I’m gonna be honest here. I knew SM would get the nod. It’s a very well made, entertaining, beautifully shot, acted and directed work from Danny Boyle. I have to say though, and I can say this with confidence even though I’ve not seen THE READER, FROST / NIXON was the picture from the bunch that had me absolutely transfixed from start to finish. Whether that was purely because of the extremely interesting, non fiction subject matter or not, the fact remains, it moved and consumed me in a way SLUMDOG couldn’t.

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Sean Penn: MILK

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“This was undoubtedly the shock of the night” said numerous red carpet commentators and I think, as most people probably do, that Mickey Rourke was robbed. That’s not to take anything away from Sean Penn, he’s by far the best thing about the MILK film and you totally forget you’re watching him act. Mickey Rourke however, gives a depth of performance that maybe only comes along once a decade far less once a year. You could tell there was a lot of himself in that role which lent such honest weight to it without it being a case of pitying the guy. We’re with him for the whole picture, when you witness him dragging his battered body into the ring for another pounding you can almost feel the pain he’s going through.

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And let’s not forget the Rourke of circa RUMBLEFISH.

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BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Kate Winslett: THE READER

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Kate Winslet?? Best Actress???

I had Meryl Streep for this one and my reasons are irrefutable. Firstly: Streep is amazing in this film. Secondly: It was the only movie in this category I saw so who else was there to choose? CHANGELING was the only other picture I would pay to watch from this group. Film critic Mark Kermode thinks that Winslet deserves the award, just not for this film, in his opinion she should have got it for REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, another movie I’ve yet to see. Does anyone concur with this take?

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Heath Ledger: THE DARK KNIGHT

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It was always going to be the case and I agree with it completely. There’s no way on earth this is purely a sympathy vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, Josh Brolin is good but I think if anyone from MILK got nominated it should have been Emile Hirsch for his utterly convincing and compelling performance as Cleve Jones. Heath Ledger, however, creates this heaving, magnetic, mesmerising character you can’t take your eyes off. When The Joker leaves the screen, you want him back as quickly as possible, you want to see more disapearing pencils, he’s the bad guy you fell good routing for. Ledger completely abandons himself in this role and leaves you with a dark presence long after the credits have ended. Truly amazing and thoroughly deserved.

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Penelope Cruz: VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA

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My initial thought when I heard the results was that Marisa Tomei should have got this for her role as Cassidy in THE WRESTLER. I revisited VCB last night though and now agree with our friends at the Academy. Penelope Cruz is rather good isn’t she? I was going to do a Cruz double by sticking on VOLVER after it but then I would run the risk of starting to like the woman. It’s a compulsion I’m determined to fight for no good reason.

BEST DIRECTOR
Danny Boyle: SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

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Yep, you’ve gotta hand him this one without any real complaint. There were other movies in the Best Picture category that held my attention more the SM but the sheer audacity, energy and skill with which this film was made should be applauded long and loud. I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle, as a director he’s always pushing the envelope and never takes the easy route. There is a sincerity in his films that clearly reflect the man himself, he’s one of these guys that when you hear them talking about cinema, you know they mean it from the heart and you can’t help but take serious notice. Scorsese is another one. Well done Danny. Here’s hoping the British film industry realises finally that it’s not America’s runt brother.