Free to air
I’VE been a fan of Sally Hawkins since I first saw her in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky, radiating her trademark benevolence and good cheer. She’s one of the delights of the new Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine, playing opposite Cate Blanchett (and never overshadowed). Perhaps her strangest role was in Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go (Saturday, 10.55pm, Ten; 11.55pm Tas), based on the haunting 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Hawkins plays a teacher, Miss Lucy, in charge of a class at a mysterious English boarding school. Like the book, the film is both a love story and a science-fiction romance or, if you like, a cautionary parable for our times. The school hides a terrible secret, which it would be unfair to reveal. Let’s just say that among the pupils are Kathy H (Carey Mulligan) and her artist friend Tommy D (Andrew Garfield), and what the H and the D stand for we never know. Nor do Kathy and Tommy — not even when Miss Lucy reveals the horrific truth about their lives.
It’s doubtful if any well-loved figure in popular fiction has fared worse at Hollywood’s hands than Hugh Lofting’s English village doctor who discovers he can talk to animals. The Doctor Dolittle stories have suffered three dubious Hollywood treatments, one a box-office disaster. Rex Harrison’s 1967 musical went close to bankrupting Fox, and Eddie Murphy’s 1998 blockbuster, though a hit, had none of the charm of the original stories. Directed by Steve Carr, Dr Dolittle 2 (Sunday, 2pm, Ten) is strong on digital effects and lavatory humour but flogs its central joke so mercilessly that one is tempted to call the RSPCA. This time there’s a respectable ecological message: Murphy has to rally the animal kingdom to prevent developers levelling a forest. So see if it you like animals, zoological defecation jokes and Eddie Murphy.
If you prefer your comedy as smart and black as possible, I recommend Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (Friday, 10.45pm, Seven), about two hitmen (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) who are exiled by their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to the Belgian city of Bruges to cool off (or chill out, as we now say) after a bungled job in London. It’s a witty study of three disparate characters, enlivened by flawless dialogue. McDonagh, an Irishman, began his career as a playwright. His latest film, Seven Psychopaths, also has a couple of ruminative hitmen. He’s quoted as saying: I suppose I walk the line between comedy and cruelty because I think one illuminates the other. We’re all cruel, aren’t we? We’re all extreme in one way or another at times.’’ Yes, well, maybe.
A welcome re-run for Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film Spartacus (Saturday, 2pm, ABC1), about a slave rebellion in ancient Rome, and rated by this column the greatest of all historical epics. The screenplay is by Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Kirk Douglas is magnificent as the rebel leader.
(M) ★★★★✩ Friday, 10.45pm, Seven
(M) ★★★★ Saturday, 2pm, ABC1
(M) ★★★ ✩ Saturday, 10.55pm, Ten (11.55pm Tas)