Saturday, 14 August 2010

Film Review: Relative Values (2000)

Director: Eric Styles
Screenwriter: Noel Coward (play), Paul Rattigan
Main Cast: Julie Andrews, Sophie Thompson, Jeanne Triplehorn, Edward Atterton, William Baldwin, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry
Runtime: 87 mins
Certificate: PG (UK)
Brief Summary: A man returns home with his bride-to-be, an actress, who turns out to be the sister of his family's maid.


Considering how many of my favourite actors and actresses feature in Relative Values, I'm surprised I hadn't heard of it before. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise to receive it in the post and I'm very glad I added it to my LOVEFiLM list on a whim! The film is based on the 1951 Noel Coward play of the same name. I always enjoy films based on plays (counting The History Boys as one of my all-time favourites), despite the usual lack of hard-hitting drama. Luckily, I was not disappointed with this gem.

Relative Values is utterly charming, and completely British. Right from the off we are treated to dialogue filled with dry wit and just gets funnier as the film continues. However, it is the individual performances that really give this film the edge. Andrews plays the role of the matriarch perfectly, whilst Firth is by far the funniest character in his role of the cousin. Fry and Thompson put in brilliant performances also. Production-wise, it's fairly simple but I really enjoyed the opening montage.

The film could have been better if we had more of an insight into Moxie and Miranda's background or why Miranda and Don broke up. This is never fully explained. However, this is still a decent film and I recommend it to anyone who particularly enjoys British humour.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Book Review: The Lucky Ones ~ Rachel Cusk

Title: The Lucky Ones

Author: Rachel Cusk

Year of Publication: 2003

Genre: Fiction, Short stories

Blurb: A young pregnant mother wrestles with an utterly changed life; a new father searches for a sign of the man he used to be; a daughter yearns for a lost childhood; and a mother reaches out in bewilderment to a child she can't fully understand. A rare novel that illuminates "the bustling concourses of life" without sacrificing emotional depth and complexity, The Lucky Ones confirms Rachel Cusk's place among our most incisive writers.

Opening Sentence: Michelle had to get up with her now when she had to go.


Now, I really enjoyed Arlington Park, so had high hopes for The Lucky Ones. Unfortunately Cusk's earlier novel did not elicit the same response. Despite having a different subject matter, the layout was a bit too similar to AP, yet not as enjoyable a read. Whilst Arlington Park had subtle touches of humour, The Lucky Ones was just a bit too dreary and the characters aren't particularly believable or likeable.

That isn't to say it isn't well written, because I want to make it clear that it is. Cusk has a natural talent for really grasping emotions and atmospheres through the power of words, but that didn't seem enough to keep the book flowing. The chapters were meant to interweave, with the constant of lawyer Victor Porter and his journalist wife Serena running through it, but if anything, it seemed to be just a collection of five short stories. It was very sporadic, there didn't seem to be any links between the characters, despite being led to believe that there were. And the importance of Victor and Serena just wasn't made clear enough. I guess the chapters link thematically more than anything. The disappointment and confusions in relationships, particularly parent and child.

If The Lucky Ones had been marketed as a collection of short stories, then perhaps it would have worked better. (Not that it didn't work; the author was nominated by Granta magazine as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists', in the same year as The Lucky Ones was released).
As a full novel however, it wasn't for me.

My rating: 2/5