In 1860s Massachusetts, the March family has four daughters, all with different artistic aspirations. Meg (Emma Watson) is an actress who is happy complying to society’s ideals of feminity, Jo (Saoirse Ronan) is an aspiring writer with intentions to make it on her own, cherubic Beth (Eliza Scanlen) is a musician, favouring the piano, and Amy (Florence Pugh) a painter who sometimes feels put out as the youngest child (although it was only in researching for this post that I discovered she was supposed to be the youngest, as it felt like Beth far more filled out that role). Their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) tries to mould them into good, charitable adults whilst their father is fighting in the American Civil War, and over the seven year period of the film, they all have varying dalliances with their wealthy neighbour’s grandson Laurie (Timothee Chalamet).
Celebrating the best film I’ve seen this week that’s not on the list, first up its The Muppets. I mentioned recently that I’ve not had a lot of dealings with the muppets in the past, and I now realise I’ve lived a previously unfulfilled life, devoid of a required amount of felt to maintain the desired level of happiness.
The cloth characters latest outing both improves upon and acknowledges those that have come before it (I’ve read that Muppets in Space and Muppet Treasure Island aren’t as good as The Muppet Movie or Muppet Christmas Carol, but I intend to find out soon) and like those other films the plot is kept nice and simple – Muppet superfan brothers Walter and Gary (co-writer and real-life Muppet super face Jason Segel) go on holiday to LA with Gary’s long term girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), where they discover that wealthy oil baron Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) plans to buy and destroy the Muppet Theatre, giving the duo a few days to round up their disbanded heroes and raise $10 million. Just like its predecessors, the film is packed with mostly recognisable cameos, including Alan Arkin, Sarah Silverman and a very game Jack Black, and the soundtrack, including a moment where Chris Cooper quite unexpectedly raps (it’s not that bad actually) and the Oscar winning Man or Muppet is amazing, written by Flight of the Conchords Bret McKenzie, and I shall be purchasing it soon.
Improving upon the first movie by never spending too much time on one character, there are still a few flaws. Most irritatingly, a detail from the finale – Walter’s talent – is not mentioned throughout the entire film, and is pulled out of a hat at the end, and the first half, whilst good, is nowhere near as entertaining as the second, once the show the gang are putting on kicks off. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another 10 years before the next Muppet film, though if we do I’m sure it will be worth it.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor, this cannot be questioned. Whether leading a small film in the likes of Synecdoche New York, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and the Savages, outshining the rest of an ensemble cast in Magnolia, Boogie Nights, the Boat that Rocked and the Talented Mr. Ripley or chewing the scenery as the bad guy in a big screen blockbuster like Mission Impossible 3, he always sinks completely into his characters, be they good-natured yet uncouth storm chasers, an intimidating phone-sex supervisor/mattress salesman or an outspoken rock journalist. With Hoffman’s acting ability in little doubt, it’s a wonder this film was made, as other than showcasing his talent for inhabiting the persona of another individual, there is little to recommend for this drab, largely plot-less offering .
Hoffman plays acclaimed writer Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), visiting a small town to document the aftermath of a murder for a magazine. Fascinated with the case, and even more so by one of the convicted killers, he expands his piece to become the last book he ever finished, In Cold Blood. The only real narrative drive is that of the court proceedings and Truman writing his book, interspersed with various parties and conversations with his friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) as she herself achieves publication and film adaptation of her own seminal novel To Kill A Mockingbird, but what the film lacks in purpose it makes up for in performances.