Monday, August 28, 2006

Spiderman's uncle

There's a full feature on John Ehle at Journal Now about the republication of The Land Breakers and its selection for On the Page. Interesting overview of his career. Among his many claims to fame: "...Ehle enjoyed saying that he was married to Spider-Man's aunt and was Lady Macbeth's father." There's quotage from the folks at Press 53, who have a PDF of the book's first chapter and are auctioning off signed copies. There's also a $1000 essay contest for high schoolers.

Over at IMDB, a couple people reckon they spotted Jennifer Ehle in some mini-series with Celia Imrie and Steven Mackintosh and as an extra in Howard's End. Does this ring any bells? Oh, mini mention of Michael Clayton in this Scotsman interview with Tilda Swinton.

In case anyone's freaking out about not receiving all their Utopia tickets at once, word at All That Chat is that tix for each play are being mailed separately.

To round off, another Alpha Male review, by Variety's Leslie Felperin:

A rich, dysfunctional English family is torn apart when the patriarch dies suddenly and the mother remarries in the sturdy but so-so "Alpha Male." Part of a newly reinvigorated fascination in Brit drama with the lives and loves of the idle posh ( "Separate Lies," "Gosford Park," and the recent TV adaptation of "The Line of Beauty"), pic demonstrates tyro helmer Dan Wilde's skill with thesps, especially leads Danny Huston and Jennifer Ehle, but also Wilde's taste for the overwrought as a screenwriter. "Alpha" found low spot in the B.O. pecking order on its opening in Blighty on Aug. 11.

Confusingly constructed as a series of switchbacks between a contempo time frame and about 10 years ago and almost entirely set at a spacious manse and its extensive gardens somewhere in the Home Counties (the wealthy burbs bordering London), pic focuses on the Ferris family. Dad Jim (Huston) has made millions manufacturing paper cartons, and seems happily spliced to Alice (Ehle, from the 1995 BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice") although minor chords on the soundtrack suggest tensions lurking.

When home on the weekends from the city, Jim alternates between explosive bouts of temper and dramatic gestures of affection for his children, such as building a tree house for his daughter Elyssa (played first by Katie Knight as a 10-year-old and when grown up by upcomer Amelia Warner from "Aeon Flux").

Son Jack (first young Arthur Duncan, then Mark Wells from "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") seems to have inherited his dad's temperament. When Jim dies of cancer, Jack assumes the role of the man of the family, and so takes badly to the notion of Alice remarrying gentle, bearded painter Clive (Patrick Baladi), whom she meets in a bereavement support group.

Withdrawn loner Elyssa vents her own hostility at Alice's sister Brede (Trudie Styler, also pic's producer), whom Elyssa once saw making a pass at her father.

Present-day section revolves around a lavish 21st birthday party Alice throws for Jack. At the bash, assorted home truths are uttered and betrayals come tumbling out in a rush. Even Jim puts in an appearance from beyond the grave for a mawkish moment of closure.

Dialogue shows fair grasp for the nuances of this upper-class milieu, with its frigid politesse masking roiling resentments under the surface. Dramatic balance, however, remains a problem with some character psychologies appearing too belabored (particularly Jack's) while the behavior of other characters (particularly Elyssa and Jim) remains frustratingly opaque.

Still, ensemble members make the most of what they've got, with the redoubtable Huston and Ehle, who's been seen too little recently onscreen, holding up their ends especially well. Styler too does good work here as Alice's sister.

Tech package is competent, with all departments executing pro job, although wintry, minimalist piano score by Stephern Warbeck ("Shakespeare in Love") grows increasingly tedious over the long haul.

(Variety slanguage guide)

Hold on. One more, in the Catholic Herald. You can read a snippet of it in Google Cache:

Alpha Male is the Sloaniest film I’ve seen in years. I use the word very specifically, not as a general catch-all for public-school educated Brits or toffs rampaging drunkenly around Sloane Square, but rather a particular type of attitude that still personifies Middle England. Modern Sloaniness is about the struggle between a desire to be trendy and a strong awareness of class; it is sensitivity and ambition scuppered endearingly by slight embarrassment and trying ever so slightly too hard. ...

No comments: