Where the Truth Lies 1962 An erotic thriller based on Rupert Holmes’ novel. Written and Directed by Atom Egoyan. Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon star as a comedy team (never funny here) who ostensibly broke up upon finding the body of a naked woman in their hotel bathtub…or as Roger Ebert said, “Who slew the blonde and why?” Years later, a young, nubile journalist tracks the unsolved crime. The mystery is as complex as they come and might’ve been swell otherwise employed. Characters are unsympathetic; the soft core porn, weird and unnecessary. Both Firth and Bacon must’ve had high mortgage payments. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Bridget Jones Diary 2001 Directed by Sharon Maguire Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 2004 Directed by Beeban Kidron. Bridget Jones‘s Baby 2016 Directed by Sharon Maguire. British/American romantic comedies based on the books of Helen Fiedling.
Overweight, thirty-something, Bridget (Renee Zellwegger) keeps a droll, self-deprecating diary. Her life is made up of successive occasions which she somehow messes up. In the first film, Bridget blunders a matchmaking set-up with family friend/lawyer Mark (Colin Firth) and has a loosey goosey affair with her womanizing boss Daniel (Hugh Grant). Both are handsome. Both want her. (An aspirational film.)
In the second, she’s living with Mark, grows jealous of his attractive associate, then deals with Daniel’s reappearing. In the third, she’s broken up with Mark, sleeps with Jack Quant (Patrick Dempsey), gets pregnant and doesn’t know whether the father is Mark or Jack. (Both are willing, of course.) Renee Zellwegger gained and lost substantial weight. Cheerful and empathetic, though the franchise thins out. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Girl with a Pearl Earring 2003 Adapted from the novel by Tracy Chevalier. Directed by Peter Webber. Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a shy, young 17th-century servant in the household of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). His spoiled, adolescent daughter makes things difficult, but Griet, silent, soldiers on, curious about her master’s vocation.
She catches the eye of the local butcher’s son, Pieter (Cillian Murphy), but also that of Vermeer’s rich patron, Pieter Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson) and her employer. Vermeer’s wife (Essie Davis) and mother-in-law (Judy Parfitt) grow respectively jealous and suspicious of the painter’s new muse. The household is torn.
Visually evocative. Historically illuminating. Quiet. Chevalier sold to a British studio believing they’d resist Hollywood’s urge “to sex up the story.” She stipulated that their adaptation avoid having the main characters consummate their relationship. This was 17 year-old Scarlett Johansson’s second film. Rent on Amazon Prime.
When Did you Last See Your Father? 2008 Based on the memoir by Blake Morrison. Directed by Arnand Tucker. The British do this really well. Told as flashback from his father Arthur’s deathbed (Jim Broadbent – terrific), deeply conflicted Blake Morrison (Colin Firth as an adult, Matthew Beard as a teenager) recalls the past: repeated occasions Arthur publicly mocked him, parentheses during which Blake was sure his dad was having an affair with Aunt Beatie (Sarah Lancashire), times attention to Beatie was too obvious to bear and his mother Kim (Juliet Stephenson – wonderful) suffered; unexpected bonding; difficult adolescence, first love.
We see Arthur’s disintegration in contrast to robust years when “he was lost if he couldn’t cheat in small ways,” every girl and woman were fair game, people were drawn to his expansive nature. And Blake’s agony, even so many years later, over the looming question of infidelity. Intelligent, painful, heartfelt. Free with Amazon Prime.
A Single Man 2009 Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood. Directed by Tom Ford. Drama/love story centering on sensitive, gay, middle-aged English college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) who has just lost his longtime partner and is overwhelmed by depression. Lonely best friend Charley (Julianne Moore) wants more from him than he’s able to give. Student Kenny Potter (Nicholas Hault) shows unexpected interest and eventually connects in a way George had not believed impossible, but…
The film is bleak and moving. Fashion designer Tom Ford’s first foray into direction. Production design is by the same team that designed AMC television’s Mad Men.”Some films aren’t revelations, exactly, but they burrow so deeply into old truths about love and loss and the mess and thrill of life, they seem new anyway.” (Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune.) Nuanced acting. Free with Netflix.
The King’s Speech 2010 Directed by Tom Hooper. An historical drama. Prince Albert (“Bertie”) Duke of York, (Collin Firth – Best Actor Academy Award) eschews the limelight because of a stammer. His father King George V explains the importance of the wireless in communicating to their people. Hoping to prepare him, Bertie’s wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) finds Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) whose unorthodox methods at first put him off. When George V dies, eldest son Edward abdicates to be with Wallis Simpson. That leaves Bertie in the hot seat.
Though Bertie and Lionel’s relationship is questioned by the King’s advisors, the bond grows stronger as the King makes real progress. With presence and encouragement, victory is in his sights. Beautifully written, directed, and acted. Screenwriter David Seidler read about George VI’s life after learning to manage his own stuttering. He started writing about the relationship between the therapist and his royal patient as early as the 1980s, but at the request of the Queen Mother, postponed work until her death in 2002. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Genius 2016 British/American biographical drama based on Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. Directed by Michael Grandage (first film). New York City 1929. A glimpse at Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) known for working with Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as he shepherds cocky, unreliable, argumentative author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) through first success Look Homeward Angel while investing in a doomed friendship. The film doesn’t plum what was apparently a pivotal relationship. That it’s unfortunately shot in consistently drab color emphasizes lack of emotional contrast. Rent on Amazon Prime.
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