Tag Archives: olivia coleman

Film Review: Hyde Park on Hudson

Hyde Park on HudsonSometimes a combination of different genres and styles can be a good thing for a film. Not being pigeonholed can increase intrigue and stave off disinterest. Django Unchained is a perfect recent example. However, Django knows exactly what it wants to be and sticks to it throughout. The problem with Hyde Park on Hudson (a world away from Tarantino’s film, I know) is that it never really knows what it wants to be and ends up meandering around without committing to one style or the other.

The story focuses on US President Franklin D Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his love affair with distant cousin Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), referred to as Daisy, during a visit by the King and Queen of England to his country estate in Hyde Park, New York.

The synopsis puts the film firmly in the ‘drama’ category as does its opening. However, when Daisy suddenly gives FDR a handjob in the front seat of his car, things take somewhat of a bizarre turn. Prepare for many an odd sideways glance. All of a sudden, it wants to throw in some comedy. But then it’ll take it away again. Continue ad infinitum. The fact that it never settles for either prevents you from ever really investing in the story and is little more than confusing. It’s never dramatic enough for a drama nor funny enough for a comedy.

Another of the film’s issues is that its main story arc isn’t even the most interesting one. FDR and Daisy’s relationship is never explored in a meaningful enough way to care about and there is little to no development of either character. Instead, the royal visit of King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Coleman) is much more interesting and makes for an infinitely more engaging storyline. Both West and Coleman are very good in their roles, providing some of the more humorous moments on offer. However, both Linney and Murray don’t bring enough to the role match their British counterparts, although this is as much the fault of the largely poor script that too often champions adultery and subservient female roles.

HPoH is all about ‘special relationships’ but the one between Britain and America may stick in the throat of some Brits. Whilst healthy relationships are built on mutual respect, there seems to be none of that here and both British monarchs are frequently undermined and belittled. King George (or Bertie as he’s known) is presented as a bumbling, childish fool due to his stammer and inexperience as King and is often patronised by FDR. The (less than subtle) suggestion that the helpless British came grovelling for help from Uncle Sam to help them in World War II is also presented in rather a demeaning fashion.

With some films, it’s easy to say that they could have been so much more and how they could have been improved. However, to do that with HPoH would take almost an entire deconstruction of almost every element of the film. It’s an uninteresting story, many of the characters are unlikable and some of the directorial and script choices are lamentable. The film is based upon journals and diaries of Suckley’s that were discovered under a bed after her death, and perhaps some things should remain hidden.

1 and a half pigeons

1.5/5 pigeons

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Film review: Tyrannosaur

TyrannosaurTyrannosaur sets its stall out early. Within minutes, a dog has been kicked to death, and that tone carries on throughout pretty much the rest of the film. Make no mistake, Tyrannosaur is not a film to watch if you want some lighthearted entertainment; you will be appalled, shocked, angered, and saddened. This may not be the best advert, but it’s a film that should be watched as a lesson in humanity, tolerance and compassion.

Joseph (Peter Mullen) is a rage-filled down-and-out; he drinks, gambles, has no job, antagonises and abuses any and all who cross his path – all in all a pretty destructive character, both physically and mentally.  When he meets religious charity shop worker, Hannah (Olivia Coleman), he isn’t used to the level of understanding, patience and kindness that she shows him and proceeds to abuse her as he does everyone else. But Joseph keeps finding his way back to Hannah and slowly starts to let her change his life. However, Hannah has some dark secrets of her own, namely her abusive and sadistic husband James (Eddie Marsan), and she ends up needing Joseph just as much as he needs her.

The story, and Joseph’s in particular, is reasonably formulaic for the most part, although there are still plenty of shocks and surprises throughout that will raise eyebrows. Most of the character’s journeys are affecting, from Joseph’s to Hannah’s to Samuel’s, a young boy who’s one of the few to treat Joseph like a real human being, and you genuinely want them to find the happiness they strive for.

As mentioned in the first paragraph, Tyrannosaur is not an easy watch (the happiest scene in the film is a wake) and, at times, it can be a little too brutal. As is the speciality of British cinema, reality is clearly the order of the day, but Tyrannosaur is sometimes so bleak that it can actually detract from the reality of it all. Surely so many people’s lives couldn’t be that dysfunctional? Or maybe they could and that’s the really shocking thing.

Much of the acclaim for this film has focused on Olivia Coleman’s performance, and, quite simply, it deserves every accolade it gets. She delivers a performance so compelling, so gut-wrenching that it truly makes you glad you’re only watching a film; even the thought of anyone going through the ordeals she does is nothing short of frightening. Coleman’s portrayal of a woman pushed to her absolute limits is masterful, although her story threatens to completely overshadow that of Joseph’s. Or rather it would have done if Mullen had not delivered an equally impressive performance, his Joseph delicately straddling the line between psychopath and misunderstood. Like Michael Fassbender’s performance in Shame, it’s an absolute travesty that neither Coleman nor Mullen got an Oscar nod, especially considering the number of other awards the film and the actors have picked up.

Despite the film’s rather dark outlook, there is still plenty to cheer. Watching the the relationship between Joseph and Hannah develop is mesmerising as you never quite now if Joseph will slip back into old habits despite Hannah’s seemingly unwavering belief that he’s a good person at heart.

Tyrannosaur is a film that makes an impression, and if this is Considine’s first feature as a director, then any future forays behind the camera should generate a fair deal of attention.

Words: Chris Thomson

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