Film Pop: Gaslight

Year: 1944
Director: George Cukor
Stars: Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten
IMDb

As I mentioned recently, I don’t watch very many films at all at the moment – I’m way too busy reading.  Last night, however, my girlfriend and I sat down to watch Gaslight, specifically the 1944 American-produced version (following the 1940 film adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play).  This was a film we’d been meaning to watch for a few months now, after she’d introduced me to the term “gaslighting”, a form of psychological abuse owing its name to the play and its adaptations.  All will become clear.

The film opens with reports of the London murder of Alice Alquist, famous opera singer, before cutting forward to Italy several years later, where her niece, Paula (Bergman) is receiving musical training from a man who once coached Alice herself.  However, Paula has had her head turned by Gregory Anton (Boyer), losing passion for her studies, and soon abandons her tutelage to marry him.  He persuades her to move back to the house where her aunt was murdered (in which Paula had lived at the time).  Among her aunt’s possessions, which are swiftly moved to the loft for Paula’s peace of mind, she finds a letter dated two days before the murder from a man named “Sergius Bauer” which could help solve the yet-uncracked case; Gregory swiftly relinquishes her of this and keeps it to himself.

Soon afterwards, strange events begin to happen around Paula which she is unable to explain.  She begins to misplace glightitems, finding them in places she is sure she didn’t put them (or not finding them at all).  Meanwhile, a man in the park recognises in Gregory a man whom he thought to be dead – this man, who turns out to be Brian Cameron of Scotland Yard (Cotten) starts to use his connections to investigate the matter.  These investigations are not helped by Gregory, who makes every effort to isolate his wife from the world, thereby encouraging her feelings of confusion and persecution – feelings which are increasingly revealed as justified, as it becomes evident that Gregory is deliberately misleading his wife in an attempt to convince her that she is going mad (i.e., “gaslighting” her).  Furthermore, Cameron’s investigations reveal that Gregory Anton is none other than Sergius Bauer, author of the mysterious letter and murderer of Alice Alquist.  He married Paula in order to find some precious stones, for which he had killed her aunt but failed to locate.  In the dénoument, he finds these jewels, but not before his atrocious behaviour is revealed to his wife by the heroic Cameron, who has arrived to detain the murderer and thief…

Gaslight is definitely worth watching, at least as much for its cultural significance as for its inherent quality as a film.  It suffers a little from traditional 40s over-acting, with a few interesting accents, but overall it’s a well-produced movie.  It also has some significance as the screen début of Angela Lansbury, aged 18, as a coarse maid who is either in on Gregory’s plot or just plain nasty.  But the idea behind the plot is a powerful and quite disturbing notion of abuse, making Anton one of the more despicable characters to grace my screen.  His eventual comeuppance is long-awaited and well-deserved, and the satisfaction of that is perhaps the highlight of the film.

 

My Rating: 8/10

Pop Obituary: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman was born on July 23rd, 1967 in Fairport, New York to parents Marilyn and Gordon, although they divorced not long after in 1976. Having taken up acting in high school following an injury-curtailed pursuit of wrestling, he took to his new hobby quickly and after attending theatre schools and earning his drama degree Hoffman first graced screens in a 1991 episode of NBC’s Law and Order.  1992 was his breakthrough year cinematically, earning supporting roles in four feature films (most notably the multiple Academy Award-nominated Scent of a Woman alongside Al Pacino).  More supporting parts followed, such as in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999), as well as 1998’s cult favourite The Big Lebowski.  Despite his well-received performances, Hoffman was rarely given lead roles although he had top billing in both Love Liza in 2002 and Owning Mahoney the following year.

Hoffman in 2003's Owning Mahoney
Hoffman in 2003’s Owning Mahoney

After smaller roles in Cold Mountain and Along Came Polly, Philip was cast as writer Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic, Capote. For this role Hoffman received widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor on his first try.  This role put him firmly on the scene as an A-list actor, and in 2007 he starred in Sidney Lumet’s final film, the critically-acclaimed Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.  Despite these successes in lead roles, Hoffman remained mostly as a supporting actor in his later films; he received more Oscar nominations in pshdoubtthis category for Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Master (2012), although he was unsuccessful on all three occasions.  He was also an active part of both the television and theatre scenes; he was nominated for an Emmy for Empire Falls and Tony Awards for True West, Death of a Salesman and Long Day’s Journey into Night. It is cinema however for which he will be most significantly remembered, and his final roles came as Plutarch Heavensbee in the later films of the Hunger Games series.

Hoffman, in a relationship with costume designer Mimi O’Donnell from 1999, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction after leaving college but was recovered by the age of 22.  In 2013, however, he suffered a relapse and checked into a rehab clinic citing problems with heroin and prescription drugs as the problem.  On February 2nd, 2014 he was found dead in his Manhattan apartment by friend and playwright David Bar Katz in what appears to have been a drug-related catastrophe.  He leaves behind his wife and three children:  son Cooper (born 2003) and daughters Tallulah (2006) and Willa (2008).

Philip Seymour Hoffman was an actor admired by almost everyone, including me.  I particularly enjoyed his performances in The Big Lebowski and Magnolia as well as more recently Doubt and his comic turn in 2009’s The Boat That Rocked.  It is a shame that he didn’t appear in more central roles, although clearly he excelled in supporting positions to the extent that he was more often called upon in this capacity.  Nevertheless, he could evidently handle the spotlight since in one his few lead roles he won what most consider to be the highest accolade.  He was a popular actor in the industry, particularly with Paul Thomas Anderson who cast Hoffman in five of his six features so far.  He was undoubtedly an excellent actor, and 46 is far too young to lose anyone.

psh

Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967-2014

Film Pop: 12 Years a Slave

Year:  2013
Director:  Steve McQueen
Stars:  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o
IMDb

Following Her, the second Best Picture nominee I managed to see on the weekend was the film everyone’s been talking about, the early favourite for the victory, 12 Years a Slave.  Both my girlfriend and I had been eagerly awaiting its UK release, even if our local cinema couldn’t make up its mind when it was going to have it in.  Based on the memoir of the same name written by Solomon Northup in 1853, 12 Years a Slave is the third feature film from British director Steve McQueen (and the third to feature Michael Fassbender).

12yasSolomon Northup is a black man living freely with his wife and children in Saratoga Springs, New York in the year 1841.  One day he is approached by two travelling entertainers who want him to join them as a violinist, only to be plied with alcohol one night and find himself in chains the next morning.  Now in the possession of white strangers, he is shipped down to New Orleans, given the new name “Platt” and sold to plantation owner William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch).  Ford is (relatively) civil towards Northup, but is forced into moving him on after Solomon’s altercation with vicious carpenter Tibeats (Paul Dano).  He comes into the possession of Edwin Epps (Fassbender), a violent drinker who puts Northup to work in the cotton fields along with the rest of his slaves, the best picker among whom is young Patsey (Nyong’o).  Vulnerable Patsy becomes the object of Epps’ infatuation and he soon rapes her, defying the attempted protection of Solomon and the efforts of Epps’ wife Mary (Sarah Paulson) to revile her at all times.  Northup, aided by travelling worker Bass (Brad Pitt), finally makes his companions in the north aware of his situation and is brought back to his family, not before being forced to brutally whip Patsey under Epps’ coercion.

12 Years a Slave is for certain a good film; it goes further than almost anything before it in depicting the cruel reality of slavery in America.  Ejiofor produces a masterful, moving performance as a man fighting the worst injustice imaginable to be reunited with his family.  However, overall I felt a little let down by the hype surrounding the movie. It didn’t really shock me like I was expecting it to, but maybe that’s less the film’s fault and more the result of the industry’s tendency to fill feature after feature with awful human behaviour and the media’s subsequent eagerness to shout about how shocking it is.  Maybe it’s just me, but I know I’m not the first to say this.

12yas2 As well as this, It has been criticised by some for the fact that the director and lead actor are black British rather than African American, because they don’t have the heritage rooted in slavery to draw from; I admit to being too inexperienced to comment on this meaningfully.  It’s also received a decidedly mixed reception for its historical accuracy, variously being praised for its brutal depiction of the treatment of slaves and condemned for its omission of important themes from the book (such as the slaves’ never-ending attempts to escape).

Ultimately there’s nevertheless no denying that 12 Years a Slave is a film that will go down in history for the right reasons, and it’s a film that you need to watch.  To me it’s a victim of great overhyping, but it’s still a very good film and one of the top contenders for the top prize at this year’s Academy Awards.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Film Pop: Her

Year: 2013
Director:  Spike Jonze
Stars:  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Amy Adams
IMDb

After the recent announcement of the main nominees for the 86th Academy Awards, I made it my goal to get up to date with as many of the films nominated for the leading categories as possible before the ceremony on March 2nd. This has admittedly gotten off to a relatively slow start due to my newly-acquired busy schedule, but this weekend I did manage to see two of the Best Picture nominated movies, beginning with Her, the fourth feature-length picture from acclaimed herposterdirector Spike Jonze.  Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (although not Best Director), Her is a movie I knew very little about before viewing other than the general premise (and critical recognition).

Some time in the not-too-distant future, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is employed as a writer of (mostly love) letters for people unable to express themselves emotionally.  Theodore, having recently broken up with his wife (Rooney Mara), leads an ironically miserable life alone until he installs an artificially-intelligent operating system onto his technological devices (which were already omnipresent in his life).  Samantha, as she soon names herself (Johansson (voice)), is smart and funny, although initially very naïve. The two soon become fast friends, and after Theodore returns from a blind date gone bad, shortly enter into a romantic relationship.  This is not without its difficulties.  Despite the support of old friend Amy (Adams), Theodore and Samantha struggle against obstacles like the lack of physicality. But as Samantha grows it’s only a matter of time until Theodore is outgrown along with the rest of the human race;  Theodore is not alone in his circumstances, but he is nevertheless once again alone.

hergrab

Her is a very strange film; although marketed as a comedy-drama, what humour there is is very dark. From a futuristic take on “phone sex” right at the beginning of the movie it’s clear that Jonze isn’t going to hold back in making this film into exactly what he wants, and this is refreshing.  This also helped me connect with the characters, as the candidness of the perspective made them seem more real and relatable despite the surrealism. This was true to the extent I actually felt invested in the relationship between Theodore and Samantha to a greater extent than I do with many “real” on-screen couples; when Samantha is suddenly and unexpectedly unreachable I truly empathised with Theodore’s panic.  The casting is excellent and Phoenix is very believable as a lonely guy a little on the odd side (I’m very surprised at his lack of an Oscar nomination for the part).  There is however an odd feeling that there’s something missing that keeps the film as a niche drama and holds it back from blockbuster status; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it might be linked to the general unease I felt from the story (this seems to be a strong theme in Jonze’s work).  Perhaps it’s because it’s a little too believable as the possible future of technology.  Nevertheless, I definitely enjoyed Her, and I would undoubtedly recommend it for a watch.

 

My Rating:  8/10

52 Pops: Help! (#3)

Year:  1965
Director:  Richard Lester
Stars:  The Beatles
IMDb

It’s hardly a controversial view, but I’m a massive Beatles fan.  It’s a waste of time going on about their merits as a musical quartet here, because I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said before (and this is supposed to be a post about a film).  When I was presented with the challenge of deciding on a film to watch from 1965 I was a little stuck at first because I don’t have very much spare time these days and having ruled out the Sound of Music most of the rest of my options were a little too long and/or serious.  So I delved a little deeper and realised that I had the perfect opportunity to take a look at one of the movies starring one of my favourite musical groups, none of which I’d ever seen before.  Help!, a farcical comedy, is the second of five feature films associated with the Fab Four.

beathelpI won’t spend too much time on the plot as it’s not really all that important, but I’ll give you an idea of what goes on.  Ringo is destined to be put to death by a mysterious Eastern cult unless he can remove the sacrificial ring from his finger, which is easier said than done.  The Beatles try a succession of techniques to try and save their drummer, from jeweller’s saw  to mad scientist’s lab to mystical injection.  All the while the cult is trying desperately to retrieve the ring, with or without Ringo attached.  The band flee all over the world in a series of high-jinks, running away from not only the cult but also the aforementioned mad scientist and the Metropolitan Police. Every now and again they randomly chuck in one of their songs from the album of the same name, which can only be a good thing.

It’s a fun enough film, given what it is.  I appreciate that the Beatles didn’t try to make a serious film and are perfectly aware that none of them can act; it would have been pretty rough had they tried to make a real movie.  I was a little disappointed, although not at all surprised, at the minor role George plays in the film.  Of course his humility and modesty is one of the main reasons I like him so much and naturally he wasn’t going to want a major part of something like this.  Still, he plays along (and even looks like he’s having fun in the musical scenes) and I respect him for that.  It’s also somewhat made up for by the extra dose of Ringo in the central role.  He’s a funny guy, and it’s good to see him embracing that because he comes across a bit silly when he tries to play the straight guy.

Peace and Love, Ringo
Peace and Love, Ringo

Overall I’d recommend giving this one a watch.  It has little merit cinematically but that’s not the point of the film.  Help! is four incredibly famous guys singing some songs, having a laugh and trying to help the world laugh along with them – and what’s wrong with that?

My Rating:  7/10

Film Pop: Burke and Hare

Year:  2010
Director:  John Landis
Stars:  Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher
IMDb

This past weekend I wasted the vast majority of my time playing games, and dedicated very little of it to my pop quest.  I also started a new job today and will have far less time to play with than I’ve been used to.  I did however manage to squeeze in (over two days) Burke and Hare, this “historical” “comedy”, with a surprisingly star-filled cast.  It’s not a film I own, but I was relatively interested in watching it; my girlfriend was in agreement, so that was settled.  Simon Pegg’s a funny guy, and Andy Serkis is… er… sometimes recorded moving.

Usually with less face.
Usually with less face.

The film, framed by the narration of Angus the Hangman (Bill Bailey) is an interpretation of the tale of the titular Williams Burke and Hare (Pegg and Serkis respectively).  When a client dies in their lodging-house, they sell the body to Dr Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson) and realise that there is a desperate shortage of fresh bodies for medical experimentation, and therefore money to be made.  Of course they can’t rely on old men continuing to leave bodies lying around, so the two turn to procuring their corpses by… other means. Meanwhile ex-prostitute Ginny (Fisher) comes up with a plan to propel herself into stardom by producing an all-bah1female performance of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, because Scotland.  She is however short of the startup cash, until she meets Burke, a man looking for sex love and a way to spend his new-found blood money.  Burke invests in this unsurprisingly-successful show, while Hare and his wife Lucky (Jessica Hynes) decide to invent the funeral parlour, because logic.  However, the titular duo are unable to keep their nefarious activities under wraps, and are caught, along with their respective female partners, by lawman Captain McLintock (Ronnie Corbett) and chucked in jail.  The establishment, wishing to avoid the indignity of a trial, offer them a deal:  if one confesses, the rest will go free.  Burke heroically gives himself up, because love sex.

To be frank, this film wasn’t very good.  It was a little funny at times, but this was overshadowed by the wild historical inaccuracies, which involved shoehorning in as many historical medical figures as possible and going as far as to add on a “this is what happened to the characters” scene at the end containing roughly no true information.  The general plot bears almost no resemblance to historical events, and is really “Burke and Hare” in little more than name and broad premise.  It’s also difficult to identify with any of the characters when the “heroes” are creepy murder-perverts (Andy Serkis?  Ew). The performances are decent but nothing special (I assume Fisher was cast due to the colour of her hair), and it’s not hard to see why the film only made back less than half of its £10m budget at the box office.

My Rating:  5/10

Pop News: 86th Academy Award nominees announced

oscars-2013-670The nominations for the top awards for this year’s Oscar ceremony, to be held on March 2nd, are as follows:

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O Russell, American Hustle
Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actor
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Actress
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

More to follow, and I’ll add links to any reviews of mine as and when they are created.

Film Pop: August: Osage County

Year:  2013
Director:  John Wells
Stars:  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis
IMDb

As the Oscars approach (with the main bulk of nominations being released today in fact), I recently came to the conclusion that it’s about time for me to kick into gear and get up to date with some of the films tipped for awards. The number of new releases that I actually managed to see in 2013 was pretty woeful, but between now and the 2nd of March when the 86th Academy Awards will be played out I intend to get a little more familiar with the nominees.  August:  Osage County, adapted from the award-winning play of the same name by Tracy Letts, is almost guaranteed a couple of nominations and is an outsider for a few more.

aoc1In the titular Oklahoma county, alcoholic former poet Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) is interviewing young native American woman Johnna (Misty Upham) for the position of live-in carer for his narcotic-addicted cancer-suffering wife Violet (Streep).  When Beverly disappears, Violet summons her family for support:  sister Mattie Fae and her husband Charles (Margo Martindale & Chris Cooper respectively), and the Westons’ three daughters Barbara (Roberts), Karen (Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson).  Strong-willed Barbara arrives with husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and teenaged daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin) and immediately tries to wrest control of the family from her ailing, matriarchal mother, powerful despite her illness.  Often-absent Karen turns up with her latest boyfriend, sleazy Steve (Dermot Mulrooney) who soon sets about grooming 14-year-old Jean.  Youngest daughter Ivy lives locally and is single (at least as far as the rest of her family are concerned).  Beverly is shortly discovered drowned, having gone out alone on the lake in his boat.  After the funeral and the late arrival of Mattie Fae and Charles’s son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), the family proceeds to break down both emotionally and physically.  After a series of explosive confrontations and revelations Violet is gradually abandoned by her family and left broken, crying in the arms of quiet Johnna.

Happy families?
Happy families?

August: Osage County has been described as a “black comedy”, but in truth there’s very little comic about it.  It’s a very dark film, with light points few and far between.  In such a large, star-studded cast you might think that it would be hard to pick out individual performances, but this isn’t the case.  Unsurprisingly Streep steals the show as deeply afflicted Violet, and is a shoe-in for at least another Best Actress nomination (although an outsider for the win to strong favourite Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine).  Roberts, Lewis and Nicholson all play their respective parts superbly, although Roberts is of course no stranger to the “fierce, independent woman” role.  A special mention goes to Benedict Cumberbatch (who turned out to be the reason my girlfriend wanted to see this film) for a solid performance and an American accent that I’m assured by my Kentuckian other half was decent but no Okie (I paraphrase).  To be brutally honest the film doesn’t particularly stand out as anything special, but it’s worth a watch as a decent drama if you’re prepared for a depressing 2 hours and you want to see Meryl Streep do her thing.  And if it does get that elusive Best Picture nomination that’s only a bonus.

My Rating:  7/10

Film Pop: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Year: 2013
Director: Adam McKay
Stars:  Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd etc.
IMDb

2004’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is widely regarded as one of the most popular comedy films of the last ten years, and so when in 2012 a long-awaited sequel was finally announced, there was a lot of excitement surrounding its release.  This ultimately came about in December 2013, and on the weekend, in a much-appreciated trip to the cinema, I went with my girlfriend to see Anchorman 2:  The Legend Continues.  We’re both fans of the original, and while there was a little apprehension (on my part at least) that it would be unworthy it was the anticipation of a good laugh that was the overriding feeling.  Spoiler alert:  we weren’t disappointed.

legendcont1Anchorman 2 finds Ron Burgundy (Ferrell) and his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) as a successful anchor-couple for a high-profile news network in New York City, until Veronica is offered the nightly news alone and Ron fired by outgoing news legend Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford).  Ron, unable to accept his wife’s success, abandons her and his young son before spiralling into depression and alcoholism in his native San Diego.  He is offered a chance to join the revolutionary 24-hour news channel, which he accepts having rounded up his old news team of suave reporter Brian Fantana (Rudd), ignorant sportscaster Champ Kind (David Koechner) and unique weatherman Brick Tamland (Carell).  At the new network, Ron and his team are handed the graveyard slot by boss Linda (Meagan Good) and strike up a rivalry with classy anchor Jack Lime (James Marsden) while Ron tries to win back his wife from new “psychic” boyfriend Gary (Greg Kinnear).  The team devise an ingenious plan to boost ratings with popular stories about cats, cars and America while Brick strikes up a relationship with fellow oddball Chani (Kristen Wiig).  At the height of his popularity, Ron alienates his friends before becoming blind and moving to a lighthouse where he reconnects with his wife and son before regaining his sight and returning to news.  While on his way to his son’s piano recital, proving his worth as a father, Ron and the team are caught up in an epic newsteam battle including reporters from ESPN (Will Smith et al), CBC (Jim Carrey, Marion Cotillard et al), the BBC (Sacha Baron Cohen et al), the History Channel (Liam Neeson et al), Entertainment Tonight (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler et al) and MTV News (Kanye West et al).  Ron is rescued by his old San Diego rival Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn), with a little help from Gary’s psychic powers and Brick’s gun from the future.  The film ends, but not before Brick and Chani marry and Ron is saved from a shark by his faithful dog Baxter.

legendcont2
Man’s best friend… Shark’s worst enemy

So in the end my fears were almost totally unfounded, and The Legend Continues was a very funny watch.  The original cast remain dependably amusing (with a special mention to Steve Carell) while new additions such as Kristen Wiig and Greg Kinnear provide their fair share of laughs.  Although of course some of the plot is a little questionable, the outrageous nature of some of the humour as well as a ridiculous, unexpected series of cameos towards the end more than make up for this.  It’s not winning any serious awards, but it’s a seriously funny film if you like the kind of base humour characterised by the first film (and most Will Ferrell movies, to be honest).  It’s an entirely worthy sequel to 2004’s blockbuster, and it’s a whole lot of fun.

My Rating:  7.5/10

Film Pop: You’ve Got Mail

Year: 1998
Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, Greg Kinnear
IMDb

Oh, the ‘90s.  A time of Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and an internet connection that came through the phone line.  That’s right, kids:  dial-up.

The draw of Ryan and Nora Ephron, with whom he’d teamed up for 1993’s Sleepless in Seattle, was obviously strong enough to  bring Hanks back to a light-hearted role following more serious award-winning performances in Philadelphia, Forrest Gump and Apollo 13 in the meantime.  You’ve Got Mail is a movie I saw for the first time about a year ago, and had no apprehensions regarding watching it again.

Despite this film and its very apprehensive handling of the internet coming across as overwhelmingly (and delightfully) ‘90s (E-mail? What kind of loser uses that?), it’s actually an interpretation of Miklós László’s 1937 play Parfumerie, which was adapted twice previously in the ‘40s, combined with a number of elements from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (which itself features significantly in the plot).

ygm dvdRyan stars as Kathleen Kelly, the owner of “The Shop Around the Corner”, a small, independent book shop in New York City.  Although in a relationship with neurotic journalist Frank (Kinnear), Kathleen is in daily correspondence with a mystery man via that internet thing (because it’s apparently not cheating if you don’t know their name).  Meanwhile, Joe Fox (Hanks) is an executive of Fox Books, a giant bookstore chain about to open a new outlet just around the corner from The Shop Around the Corner.  Romantically attached to a fellow executive, Fox is similarly engaged in online intimacy with a girl, about whom he knows nothing.  You can probably see where this is going.  Kathleen and Joe enter a feud in real life while inadvertently advising each other online on how to deal with their respective rivals in person.  They soon agree to meet up, but when Fox discovers the identity of his confidant he stands her up, instantly changing their relationship from one of intimacy to deception and manipulation.  He uses his new found position of power to get to know the real Kathleen, naturally leading up to the ultimate reveal in the hope that he has done enough to win her over.

It’s a highly enjoyable film, as Ephron’s offerings tend to be.  The famous relationship between Hanks and Ryan, in its third and final cinematic outing, is as warm as ever even though the two characters have been put in a position where they’re obliged to hate each other.  The relationship between the two makes the movie, but it’s also very well written both in terms of story and adaptation.

ygm dog
Which two did you think I was talking about?

I’m a big Tom Hanks fan, and so while this isn’t exactly one of my favourites of his, that’s no real criticism.  It’s also interesting for me to notice that You’ve Got Mail basically seems to mark the end of Meg Ryan’s peak, while Hanks has of course continued to impress (although perhaps never quite living up to the standards of his golden decade).

Overall of course this film was hardly groundbreaking, but nobody ever suggested it was meant to be.  It’s a sweet, funny film about two people who are probably destined for each other if only they can stop the world getting in the way.  This is a tried and tested formula, and when you add the personnel we’re blessed with here then success is inevitable.

My rating: 7.5/10