It’s that time of year when it’s chilly outside and the stars are busy traipsing up and down red carpets without so much as a coat on and covering themselves in shiny awards, while I’m staying home and covering myself with a giant blanket.
Britain’s glitzy BAFTAs were on Sunday, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in attendance. My top fashion picks were Nicole Kidman, Felicity Jones and Thandie Newton – although by sheer dint of her royal status the Duchess managed to outshine the stars.
Anyway, I’m not going to harp on about fashion. I’m wearing a blanket, after all.
Some of the BAFTA nominees for Best Film etc. are in the cinema, but a few are available on DVD and digital already. And I’m lazy. So I’ve been watching…
The Girl on the Train
They’ve both got ‘girl’ in the title and they were both publishing sensations before becoming movie adaptations, but that’s where the similarities between Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train lie down on the tracks to die.
This Emily Blunt-starrer is as much fun as the time I had a migraine and had to get a train from Southampton to Portsmouth, but got on the train to London instead and spent all day trying to get back home.
Blunt is alcoholic Rachel, in such a committed performance you can taste the booze on her breath. She’s divorced, and quasi-stalks her ex Justin Theroux and his new wife Rebecca Ferguson.
Every day Rachel passes a beautiful house with a beautiful couple (Luke Evans & Haley Bennett). Bennett looks like a foxier version of Jennifer Lawrence, and a tiny bit Rebecca De Mornay circa The Hand that Rocks the Cradle. Rachel fantasizes about the couple, has blackouts, and then one day wakes up covered in blood with a determined cop (Alison Janney) on her case.
Blunt is a fine actress and she deserved her Best Actress hat tip (the movie also managed a slot in “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer”), but The Girl on the Train should have been left on the platform.
Dad Ben (Viggo Mortensen – nominated for Best Actor at Sunday’s BAFTA ceremony), is raising his brood of six kids in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The children follow an intensive literature/philosophy home school program, while undergoing rugged survival and endurance training.
Mom is bipolar and in a psychiatric facility, when news filters through to the wilderness that she’s committed suicide. Meanwhile eldest son Bod (George MacKay – really good) has secretly applied to and been accepted into every Ivy in the land.
There’s two redheaded interchangeable sisters and a pair of smaller blond moppets, but the only other sprog to emerge from the picture is angry preteen River Phoenix/Leonardo DiCaprio lookalike Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton).
The family all hop aboard a school bus and trek off to mom’s funeral and disapproving grandpa Frank Langella, where brothers Bo and Rellian (and their siblings, if we must) discover they aren’t really able to deal with the outside world, while their real world cousins are Typical Western Teenagers in all their ignorant, idle glory.
I expected a fish-out-of-water comedy, then I was convinced Cap was going to be an intensely personal, stormy teen drama about a monstrously overbearing, misguided parent. It’s neither. It’s a neat little drama with some funny moments that holds back from portraying Ben as either a megalomaniac cult figure or as a saintly man with all the answers.
Hell or High Water
Nominated for Cinematography, Best Supporting Actor for Jeff Bridges, and Best Original Screenplay for Taylor Sheridan at the BAFTAs, Hell or High Water is the surprisingly simple story of divorced dad Toby (Chris Pine) and his explosive ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster).
The brothers carry out a couple of highly-planned robberies (driving past huge signs screaming “DEBT”) at branches of a Texan bank threatening to foreclose on their family land. Ben Foster brings his trademark twitchy intensity, and you can see the training he underwent for such roles as a Navy SEAL in Lone Survivor, (although I don’t 100% believe him as the dimwit that Tanner is considered to be).
I loved all the Texan characters, from the old man in the bank (“You’re damn right I got a gun on me”) to the sweet-voiced diner waitress who befriends Toby, as Texan Ranger Jeff Bridges and his partner Gil Birmingham lie in wait for the outlaws to strike again. A screwup like Tanner is always going to screw up, and the movie quickly and quietly builds to thrilling chase and shootout scenes.