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dir Duncan Ward
scr Danny Moynihan
prd Danny Moynihan, Kami Naghdi, Christopher Simon, Cat Villiers
with Gillian Anderson, Danny Huston, Stellan Skarsgard, Heather Graham, Amanda Seyfried, Jaime Winstone, Alan Cumming, Jack Huston, Joanna Lumley, Christopher Lee, Simon McBurney Charlotte Rampling
release UK 16.Apr.10, US 21.Apr.10
09/UK The Works 1h34
But is it art? Sarsgard and Anderson
Victory Boogie Woogie
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
There's a terrific idea in this film, and an astounding cast, but author Moynihan seems determined to get every tiny thread of his novel into this script, leaving the movie overcrowded and fragmented.
Art (Danny Huston) is a powerful London art dealer and close friends of jet-setting collectors Jean and Bob (Anderson and Skarsgard), whose marriage is badly strained by Bob's wandering eye. He's in the process of setting up his mistress Beth (Graham), one of Art's employees, with her own gallery. So Jean seduces Beth's boyfriend, a young artist (Jack Huston). Meanwhile, a video artist (Winstone) is cruelly using her curator best friend (Cumming) as a subject. And Alfreda (Lumley) is trying to convince her elderly husband (Lee) to part with his valuable Mondrian Boogie Woogie painting.
There are moments along the way when the film achieves a high-spirited tone that sharply skewers the art world. And the variety of plot threads lets us see things from several sides, even if each strand feels both over-plotted and under-developed. But Moynihan astutely observes the jealousies, competitions and hilarious pettiness of the scene. And the actors really dive into their roles.
Most enjoyable is Anderson's brassy drunk, a jumble of confidence and desperation who gives the film its heart. Huston seems to be channelling someone specific (perhaps insiders know who), while Skarsgard and Lumley offer dryly comical performances. Cumming has the film's most wrenching character, while Rampling's cameo is a terrific diversion. On the other hand, Graham, Seyfried and Winstone play women who have a lot of potential but are thinly sketched by the script (and editing).
Strangely, director Ward adds a creepy misogynistic tone, with all of these predatory, sleazy men plus camerawork that leers at female anatomy, which leaves the gay subplots feeling almost offensively cursory. What we're left with is a film packed with intriguing but deeply unlikeable characters who are using each other for personal gain. And since it's going in so many different directions, we're left chuckling at the witty dialog and sharp performances but uninterested in the bigger issues the premise is raising. Which leaves the final irony feeling clever but a little pointless.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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