Tag Archives: Brendan Gleeson

Live By Night

“This, right here, is heaven. We fucked it up.”

From Ben Affleck, the director of Argo and The Town – and starring Ben Affleck, the star of Argo and The Town – comes an early competitor for most infuriatingly boring film that should never have been so infuriatingly boring: Live By Night.

Maybe my expectations were set a little high? Maybe I was hoping for a little too much? Maybe, the pedestal I’ve put Ben Affleck on in recent years is too lofty for him? But this film – a film that stars Affleck, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Salanda and Brendan Gleeson, to name but a few – and Affleck on directorial duty; this film disappointed in such a massive way that I felt crushed as I left the screening on Saturday afternoon.

After a stint in prison for his part in a bank robbery, long time petty crook Joe Coughlin (Affleck) hits the streets of Boston a free man with money, power and revenge on his mind. Aligning himself with the head of the Italian mob, the Irishman is sent to Florida to remove certain entities from power and start making the boss some money.

Coughlin uses his smarts and is quickly the top dog in the sunny state, making a fortune selling dark Cuban rum in the height of prohibition America. Of course, working your way up from nickel-and-dime hood to being the most powerful man in Florida brings you an enemy or three and now Coughlin’s found himself on the wrong side of some very powerful people.

Pretty much “30’s Gangster Movie 101”

Based on the novel of the same name by writer Dennis Lahane – writer of books like Shutter Island and Gone Baby Gone (Affleck’s directorial debut) – Live By Night is surprising in its awfulness considering just how good its inspiration is.

Whilst it’s not the worst film Ben Affleck has starred in (not by a long shot) Live By Night is most certainly the weakest of his directorial efforts. By quite a margin. The man has no one else to blame but himself.

Writer, producer, director and star may have been too much for the current Batman to do all by himself this time around as every role that he took responsibility for in the creation of this film suffered a lack of care and attention: This, considering The Town is one of my favourite crime thrillers (I’ll forgive it being an ADD, Boston based remake of Heat), a film I think is beautifully made and superbly paced with excellent acting all around. Affleck’s latest seems to have forgotten all the skill that made his 2010 crime thriller great and has decided to make himself a paint-by-numbers prohibition movie in an age that includes Boardwalk Empire having once been a thing.

Lacklustre, badly paced direction and a beyond poor script do little to take away from the terrible acting in this film. Not just from Affleck, but his whole cast.

Chris Cooper’s police chief, who a penchant for burying his head in the sand, looked bored on screen. As did Elle Fanning – fresh from an excellent performance in The Neon Demon – as the chief’s daughter: A woman with Hollywood bound aspirations. Both Sienna Miller and Zoe Salanda are neither convincing (nor apparently convinced) in their roles as Coughlin’s fancy pieces at various stages. The whole ensemble seem like puppets with someone’s hand up their arses doing the talking. Only their puppet master is asleep at the wheel.

Live By Night takes a tremendously long time to get to its wholly predictable conclusion. Considering how much good quality strong coffee I get through on a standard Saturday and the venti double shot Americano I take in with me to almost every screening, there is no way I should have been dozing off whilst watching this. Yet there I was, nodding off in my chair like your old man after Christmas dinner.

Not bad considering I don’t remember feeling tired when I went in.

Suffragette

image“We don’t want to be law breakers. We want to be law makers.”

Back when I was in school and trying to figure out my “options” for my GCSE years, the one subject I wanted to do without a moments doubt, was history. We’d spent the few years previous learning about the world wars, ancient Egypt and all kind of interesting guff in between so I was instantly sold. Day one of year 10 (more or less 9th grade for those in the States) I regretted my decision instantly. No more wars and politics, no more Egyptians or Tudors. Women was where I would be spending the next two years. Women at work, women’s votes, the whole nine yards. I was livid. I’m not, and wasn’t, anti-woman or anti-feminism or any of that primitive, Neanderthal bollocks. What I was, and still am, is anti-bored off my ass reading about shit that I don’t find interesting.

Luckily, and happily, a few weeks in and it turns out that women in history, and women’s fight for equality and the vote in particular, may be some of the most interesting parts of history that I’ve ever spent time reading about. An impossible struggle that women would certainly never win, made possible by sheer force of will and determination.  It is maybe one of the most impressive feats in history and now, finally, we get a film that promises to tell the story of England’s “Suffragettes” with respect and dignity and what better name for it? Suffragette.

Directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, Suffragette takes place in 1912 London, just as the movement was hitting its peak and the working class women fighting for the vote are beginning to escalate from the peaceful protests that have failed miserably for so long, to the strong-arm tactics that made the movement famous and eventually got them the vote. It’s at this turning point that we meet Maud, a woman who has worked in an industrial laundry since she was a little girl and is sitting on the sidelines, watching the movement from outside of it and keeping her head down and out of trouble. When the government offer to hear arguments from the women who work in London, Maud is the only person to step up in support of her friend and fellow laundry worker Violet, a proud suffragette who will be speaking at the Houses of Parliament and hoping to garner support from David Lloyd George – the then Chancellor of the Exchequer who would go on to be Prime Minister a few years later – and maybe give the movement some well needed and well deserved traction in government.

On the day of the visit to London’s centre of government, Violet arrives quite badly beaten up and unable to stand in front of the men of the government. Taking her place at the Palace of Westminster, Maud tells her story to a room full of MPs who don’t necessarily agree with her stance or that of the suffragette movement and unwittingly finds herself hip deep in the movement she tried so hard to stay away from. Things get progressively worse for Maud when her usually supportive husband takes a dislike to the path she’s found herself on and begins to resent her for what she is becoming and the ideologies that she has begun to fight for.

As the campaign of not-so-peaceful protesting heats up, so does Maud’s struggle both with her conscience and her family. With odds, and the law, always against her and the suffragettes and the struggle seeming almost impossible at every turn, it’s only a matter of time before something has to give and this long-fought endeavour for women’s equality will come to a head.

I went into Suffragette with very high expectations. The story of these women that put everything on the line to get the most basic of rights that we take for granted nowadays is one that’s always needed telling and it ended telling well. With today’s climate being the way it is, and women’s rights being almost as fragile now as they were back then, there was a lot riding on this film being something of a beacon for women’s rights and equality. Thankfully, the film does a splendid job in almost everything it does and tells its story with a level of class and decency that most films would only dream of getting to, stumbling into clichés all the way through.

Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Maud, the long-suffering laundry worker whose priority is her family over her wanting the vote, is stunning. This woman who fell into becoming the film’s unwitting poster child for the movement led by world famous names like Emmeline Pankhurst and whose biggest challenges come after she starts to fight for her rights. Anyone that doesn’t feel for this woman as her family falls apart and her life is torn to pieces after being pushed to become part of a movement she doesn’t necessarily believe in is completely heartless. Pushing her into the movement are the two most prominent people in Maud’s life outside of her family. Firstly, her friend Violet, a great turn by Anne-Marie Duff; a woman who, along with Maud, is the epitome of the working class woman who were woefully under-represented at the beginning of the last century. Second is local pharmacist Edith Ellin, a woman quite literally scorned by her lack of rights not only to a vote, but to an education as well and has become the de facto leader of the East End’s suffragettes who is willing to put everything on the line for what she believes in. Helena Bonham-Carter (an actress who continues to impress me after all these years, so long as she isn’t in Tim Burton films) takes the part of Edith and owns every scene she is in with a presence that most of the cast can only dream to have one day. You feel the pain and anger with her as she leads her charge into unwinnable battles time after time, unrelenting in her convictions and unrepentant in her actions. She’s simply outstanding.

Supporting these great, great actresses is a stellar cast bringing up the rear. Brendan Gleeson’s detective Steed, a copper clearly conflicted and struggling himself between his commitment to the law and his dislike of the way that these women are being treated is a great fit for this brilliant actor. It’s tough enough to keep the sympathies with the women who deserve it, but his flashes of conscience and compassion make you think twice about out-and-out hating him for what he’s doing. Turning the world famous Emmeline Pankhurst into a cameo role was an interesting decision, skipping past the risk of turning it into a full-blown biopic, Meryl Streep’s Pankhurst is spoken of more than she is seen in this film about a movement for which she was the champion; used as motivation for both the law and the suffragettes, Pankhurst’s walk-on part of Suffragette is as powerful a statement about the fight for women’s rights as any made during the film. Much more time is spent on Natalie Press’ Emily Davidson; the suffragette who – if you don’t know who she is, I won’t spoil anything, but safe to say that a history book or two never hurt anyone – brought worldwide attention to the suffragette movement and the time we spend with her in the film portrays her as a desperate woman who’s running short on patience and time and wants the voices of these women to be heard as loud and as far out as possible.

In certain dark and nasty parts of the internet, places that I sadly find myself passing near far too often, the idea of women’s equality is still a dirty thought and as these horrible notions find their way into more mainstream areas of life, Suffragette may be the most important film made this year. Nearly a hundred years since the first positive legal steps were taken towards equal rights for women, there is no better time than now for us all to step back and take the 105-minute journey with East London’s suffragettes and realise that while plenty has changed for the better, far too much has stayed the same.

Some historical inaccuracies aside, Suffragette is a masterpiece. Powerful, poignant and, from here on out, should be required viewing for everyone.

GFF14 Diary: Wednesday 26th Feb – The Lunchbox, Zero Charisma, and Calvary

CalvaryI spent Tuesday away from the festival, although I did manage a quick visit to the splendid Grosvenor Cinema with my three-year-old daughter for a special toddlers’ screening of some Peppa Pig cartoons. I am unfamiliar with this popular porcine series, but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen in a cinema.

Today was my busiest day at the festival, with three films and a podcast recording session on the agenda. I met up with my good friends Dave Macfarlane (Born Offside) and Paul Fisher (The Write Club) for what has become our annual day of film discussion and moderate alcohol consumption. We arrived at Cineworld early for our first screening, not out of any sense of organisation, but because Dave’s fear of the lift meant a journey up the escalators to the top floor that Edmund Hillary would have balked at.

First up was the Indian romantic comedy/drama The Lunchbox, the debut feature from writer/director Ritesh Batra. The film focuses on a pair of strangers, brought together by an unheard mistake from Mumbai’s dabbawalas, the people responsible for a delivery system that collects hot cooked meals from people’s homes and delivers them to their work for lunch. Ila is an unappreciated wife and mother, and her fantastic food meant for her husband is mistakenly delivered to a curmudgeonly government employee a month away from taking early retirement. soon the two are communicating via handwritten letters packed inside the lunchbox, with both talking about the regrets in their lives, and suddenly finding new dreams and ambitions to live for.

The narrative is a little derivative at times, reminiscent of classics like Brief Encounter and In the Mood for Love, as well as the not quite so classic You’ve Got Mail. What elevates this film however are the excellent central performances which gave me that very rare feeling of physically willing two people on screen to somehow make things work. Plus, it’s always nice to see an Indian film playing on UK screens that isn’t nearly 3 hours long with 15 different dance routines bunged in the middle. This is a lovely film, but make sure you have time to go out for a curry afterwards as I haven’t salivated this much in a cinema since Jadoo.

After a trip to our very generous sponsors Brewdog Bar Glasgow to record a huge chunk of this week’s podcast, we headed back to the GFT for Zero Charisma, a Kickstarter-funded film about role-playing games and the eternal battle between real nerds and those affecting ‘geek chic’. The screening was sold out (meaning Dave had to spend an hour and half in a nearby pub), and there has been a lot of buzz about this film from the SXSW and Tribeca film festivals. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, and the film had the same homemade charm and outsider geek dialogue that made me fall in love with Clerks the first time I saw it. Sure, it goes for some easy laughs at times and the drama wasn’t written anywhere nearly as well as the comedy, but when it treads the difficult line between celebrating and skewering geekdom it is utterly brilliant. Destined to become one of those hidden gems people discover when browsing through Netflix and evangelize to their friends about.

Finally we found out what this year’s Surprise Film was, and although it didn’t end up being the dreamed of (but very unlikely) first UK screening of The Raid 2, it wasn’t a disappointment as it was the new film from John Michael McDonagh, Calvary. It’s a darkly comic tale of a priest (the fabulous Brendan Gleeson) who gets a death threat in confession and is given a week to put his house in order.

The first 90 minutes of the film is a pretty bleak, yet oddly funny look at rural Irish life, and Gleeson is captivating as the world-worn, but ultimately good man of God. Excellent support is provided by Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Aiden Gillen, and Dylan Moran as this ‘who’sgonnadoit’ simmers along to its denouement. Sadly I can’t really judge the last five minutes of the film, and therefore the film as a whole, as I found a brand new way to live up to the ‘failed’ element of our moniker. Due to a combination of early starts, long days, and mistakenly taking the ‘night’ cold and flu tablets rather than the ‘day’ ones I fell asleep for the exact five minute the film climaxed. That’s right, I’m using the Peter Buck excuse, and I’m sticking to it. It opens UK-wide on April 11, and I will be first in the queue to confess my sin, do my penance, and watch the film fully refreshed after a good night’s sleep.

BD_Logo_WhiteThe Failed Critics coverage of Glasgow Film Festival is sponsored by Brewdog Bar Glasgow – providing award-winning beers and brilliant food in one of Glasgow’s friendliest bars.

We would have spent most of the festival there regardless, so we’d really like to thank them for their generous hospitality.