Monday, August 14, 2006

Alpha Male DVD etc

  • Tesco and Screen Select seem to have Alpha Male for rent already, which is weird.
  • A meh kinda review by Jason Solomon from The Mail on Sunday (not online):

    Be careful what you wish for, runs the old saying. For years, British film-makers gave us either gangster movies and council-estate dramas or posh people and period pieces. I've spent many columns begging for films about the middle classes. Now, in Alpha Male (15) **, one arrives and it's, well, dreary.

    On the eve of Jack's 21st birthday and his mum (Jennifer Ehle) has persuaded her son to return to their country home for a lavish party. In flashbacks we see a happier time when the kids played in the garden and Dad earned a fortune making drink cartons. But then cancer strikes and the family splinters in grief. In the intervening years, Mum's got herself a new man, a new young son and a whole new set of problems.

    In his debut as director and writer, Dan Wilde has attempted an intimate family saga, painting in the emotional landscape with detailed sketches of past remembrances and present troubles. It's like piecing together a smashed ornamental plate.

    A drama about love, loss and repressed emotion, Alpha Male suffers from a lack of tension. This stuff works on telly on Sunday evenings but on the cinema screen it feels out of place and short on thrills; too polite and awkward to let rip. How very British middle class, I suppose.

  • Hands up who's not in The Coast of Utopia? Another bunch of actors sign up. Press release here.
  • Ain't It Cool has a review of Michael Clayton from a test screening. Watch out for spoilers. Llephen's verdict in a nutshell is that it's good but needs editing. Also, a Myspace account from the screening as well. No review though.
  • YouTube has an interview with Jeremy Northam about Possession.
  • Another meh review, from Peter Whittle of the Sunday Times:

    A family fails to face up to the trauma of a father's death in this ponderous and inept British drama from the director Dan Wilde. The fact that it's a wealthy black-tie type of family doesn't make its woes any more interesting, other than the opportunity it affords to gawp at beautiful country houses and luscious lawns.

    Jennifer Ehle plays the widow who falls for a new man (Patrick Baladi), thus earning the disapproval of her arrogant twerp of a son (Mark Wells) and causing her weird daughter (Amelia Warner) to spend much of her time chasing foxes. The problem is that this simple story is confused by baffling editing and an overuse of disorientating flashbacks -an attempt, perhaps, to jazz up the thin material.

  • Ian Johns of The Times modifies his earlier review a bit:

    This is a slow-burn British film that charts the family tensions underlining the return of a prodigal son for his 21st birthday. Through flashbacks we discover the father’s terminal illness and the resentment caused by the mother remarrying. It’s not Festen, more a portrait of repressed British emotions.

    An oppressive air hangs over the film that not even Ehle’s luminous stillness as the mother can lift. The tone remains too aloof to keep us interested in the agonies before us in a film in which even the pauses seem to have been scripted.

  • One more from BBC Movies' Mark Stevens:

    A melancholy story of bereavement and family breakdown, Alpha Male takes itself seriously but quite never finds the emotional weight necessary for us to do the same. Jennifer Ehle (Wilde, This Year's Love) heads the cast as Alice, widow of Jim (Danny Huston). Left on her own, she tries to cope as children Elyssa (Amelia Warner) and Jack (Mark Wells) feel the loss of the family's alpha male. The resulting drama proves a dream-like evocation of death and dysfunction.

    Ehle excels as Alice, capturing the reserved shellshock of a woman who knows she can't afford to indulge her grief. Despite doing everything she can to ease her children through the painful transition, she watches helplessly as Jack (played brilliantly by Arthur Duncan as a child, less convincingly by Mark Wells as an adult) begins to blame her for everything. Told by his father that he needs to become head of the family, young Jack is totally unprepared for such a challenge and the film keenly observes this boy's muddled attempts to play man.

    Hints of sexual tension between mother and son come to little as does daughter Elyssa's gradual mental breakdown. Debut writer/director Dan Wilde eventually relies on some trite third act plotting to deliver a climax, but it feels falsely tacked on, too convenient to ring true. What sticks in the memory is the evocative cinematography and creepy score; both turn the family's beautiful country mansion into a haunting, haunted place where choked up despair and adolescent angst simmer towards disaster.

  • Autographed Donmar The Real Thing program on eBay. Here's a scan of the signed page with photos and biogs of her and Stephen Dillane.
  • Film blogger Tim R gives Alpha Male a B and rates the screenplay as one of his top 5.
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