Russell Brand’s Arthur Misses The Mark

I loved the first Arthur movie with Dudley Moore and Liza Minelli. It was 1981, and the first time my father and I watched a movie together. We laughed. Snorted. And created our own roster of private jokes based on the exchanges between Arthur (Dudley Moore) and his very stoic butler, Hobson (John Geilgud).  Needless to say, the film holds a special place for me, and when I heard it was being remade, I shuddered. Why mess with a good thing?

Turns out my instincts were correct. The remake, starring Russell Brand in the title role and Helen Mirren as the butler turned nanny, is…meh. It’s okay. There is undeniably chemistry between Brand and Mirren. And the script is adequately adapted to present day. But it suffers greatly from the customary dumbing down the audience slap stick that studio execs insist make movies better.  The added silliness fails. It’s out of place and forced. Where the original movie succeeded in the storytelling of a child-man refusing to grow up until the unexpected meeting of his dream girl, the remake misses the mark entirely. It has none of the original heart.

Brand and Mirren have their moments – just not enough. See the original.

Mildred Pierce – One Creepy Performance

The HBO mini-series MILDRED PIERCE concluded last night. The original 1945 film, starring Joan Crawford (her Oscar winning performance) as Mildred, and Ann Blyth as the vindictive Veda, is revamped by the talented Indie director Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN).

This version stars Kate Winslet in the title role and the director (who co-wrote the teleplay with writer Jon Raymond) stays truer to the original novel. In exploring the Depression-era class issues, Mildred faces the trouble of finding a job after throwing out her philandering husband. She now has to take care of her two young daughters, including the ultra spoiled (why? We really never know. The child is relentless in her annoying, condescending attitude) Veda (played first by 11-year-old Morgan Turner and later Evan Rachel Wood).

Finding work as a waitress, she eventually learns enough to own and run a string of restaurants, making her incredibly successful. But it is the weird, odd, and many ways sick relationship she has with her daughter Veda that is the real story and why I have issues with this story.

Mildred’s reasoning is never full explained. Her face is continually emoting heartbreak and longing, but the audience is never let into her soul. Why does she make the choices she makes? Why is she so sickly attached to her daughter? Too many questions.

Wood does a decent job of playing the teenage Veda – channeling her best Queen Sophie-Ann from TRUE BLOOD. But it’s the younger Morgan Turner, playing the character in her early teens that is…well…creepy. There I said it. Her performance is so downright creepy you can’t wait for her to get off the screen. Her choice in body language is bizarre and her so-called elevated dialogue doesn’t help at all with the creepy factor. It would be better if she were playing the role of Claudia in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE.

Thank goodness her performance is nowhere to be found in parts four and five – probably the reason why these last installments are the best in the series.