David Strat­ton re­views A Royal Night Out

The Weekend Australian - Review - - INSIDE - Stephen Romei

The Re­write (M) Limited re­lease

Sun­day (MA15+) Limited re­lease

Hugh Grant is such a nat­u­rally funny ac­tor that it’s pos­si­ble to un­der-ap­pre­ci­ate his comic gifts. He’s never less than amus­ing in The Re­write, a ro­man­tic com­edy that finds hu­mour in clev­er­ness rather than crass­ness. There are no poo, wee, snot or vomit jokes, no one hides ob­jects up their bot­tom, the one mo­ment of in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex is seen as just that, in­ap­pro­pri­ate, it’s quiet rather than loud and the only dance scene fea­tures a mother with her young daugh­ters. In short, it’s the sort of com­edy that seems out of favour in Hol­ly­wood to­day.

This is Grant’s fourth out­ing with Amer­i­can direc­tor Marc Lawrence, fol­low­ing the legal rom-com Two Weeks No­tice (2002), the pop rom-com Mu­sic and Lyrics (2007) and the wit­ness pro­tec­tion rom-com Did You Hear About the Mor­gans? (2009). It’s col­lab­o­ra­tion that has been one of di­min­ish­ing box-of­fice re­turns.

Per­haps it’s not sur­pris­ing, then, that The Re­write has had such a muted re­lease, in Bri­tain and the US, where it came and went months ago, and now in Australia. It is a bit baf­fling, how­ever, as it’s a long, long way from the worst movie you will see this year and boasts a classy cast that in­cludes Os­car win­ners Marisa Tomei and JK Sim­mons. In­ter­est­ingly, it’s a film that seems aware of its own un­time­li­ness, riff­ing as it does on the fick­le­ness of the movie busi­ness and the tri­umph of the screen over the writ­ten word.

It opens with Grant’s Keith Michaels pitch­ing a film to two stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives. He’s an Academy Award win­ner for writ­ing a muchloved movie called Par­adise Mis­placed, but that was a long time ago. (In a neat touch, the flash­back to Keith’s Os­car mo­ment uses Grant’s Golden Globes ac­cep­tance speech for Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral 20 years ago.)

Keith’s idea is for a film about Jack Ni­chol­son fak­ing his own death so as to watch peo­ple’s re­ac­tions. The stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives are more in­ter­ested in a Kick-Ass sort of movie in which a spunky young woman kicks ass, most of it male. You only have to glance at the Hunger Games-Diver­gent jug­ger­naut to sus­pect such con­ver­sa­tions are ripped from re­al­ity.

Des­per­ate for a job — “I’m be­ing re­jected for rewrites of Pi­ranha 3D’’ — Keith, who is di­vorced and es­tranged from his teenage son, heads to the east coast to teach a screen­writ­ing course at Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­sity in New York state (which is direc­tor Lawrence’s alma mater).

His ar­rival on cam­pus sets up the comic and ro­man­tic pos­si­bil­i­ties. In short or­der he sleeps with a stu­dent half his age (Australia’s Bella Heath­cote), slacks off on the job, con­de­scends to an adult stu­dent (Tomei) who wants to take his course and, in the fun­ni­est se­quence, at a wine and cheese gath­er­ing, in­sults the tenured Jane Austen scholar (Al­li­son Jan­ney) who also heads the ethics com­mit­tee. Keith has to de­cide whether to quit and head home or stay and re­deem him­self.

You don’t have to be a Rhodes scholar to work out what he will do and who he will end up with, but it’s all done with flair and wit. Sim­mons is drolly ter­rific as the ex-marine fac­ulty head al­ter­nately driven mad and re­duced to lov­ing tears by his wife and four daugh­ters, while Chris El­liott pinches a few scenes as the Shake­speare scholar aware of his ir­rel­e­vance. In con­trast, the fe­male char­ac­ters, par­tic­u­larly Jan­ney’s blue­stock­ing, are a bit thinly drawn.

There’s an early scene where Keith and his Os­car stat­uette are waved through air­port se­cu­rity. He makes a stupid joke about a bomb. “Sorry,’’ he says, “I used to know what was funny.’’ Like much of this smart film, that could be a joke on Grant or on us.

“Be brave,’’ Char­lie (Dustin Clare) whis­pers to Eve (Camille Keenan) early in Sun­day as the two new lovers pre­pare to leap from a cliff into the glint­ing wa­ter be­low. Those two words un­der­score the on-screen drama and the project as a whole.

Sun­day is a self-fi­nanced trans-Tas­man film made by two cou­ples, ac­tors Clare and Keenan, who also have writ­ing cred­its, and direc­tor-writer Michelle Joy Lloyd and cine­matog­ra­pher Ryan Alexander Lloyd. While it will have a limited cinema re­lease it is part of a grow­ing trend to­wards by­pass­ing the box of­fice in favour of dig­i­tal dis­tri­bu­tion. You can find de­tails of where and how to see it at sun­daythe­film.com.

Char­lie and Eve met in Mel­bourne and had a pas­sion­ate ro­mance, seen in flash­backs to idyl­lic beach scenes. How­ever, he left to pur­sue his mys­te­ri­ous job (pre­cisely what he does is grad­u­ally re­vealed) and she re­turned home to Christchurch, a city still re­cov­er­ing from the earth­quake of 12 months pre­vi­ously.

Five months later, Char­lie re­turns. Eve is preg­nant — Sun­day is the name she tells him she has cho­sen for the child. Char­lie wants to rec­on­cile and be a fam­ily but re­fuses to quit the job that reg­u­larly will take him away.

She is un­cer­tain, even hos­tile: “I don’t feel I have to ex­plain this stuff to you,’’ she snaps when he makes jokes in a baby sup­plies shop.

The young would-be cou­ple spend the day to­gether, walk­ing through­out the ru­ined city, ar­gu­ing, laugh­ing, re­mem­ber­ing, try­ing to fig­ure out what to do next. It’s a sort of Kiwi Be­fore Sun­rise. It’s cheesy at times and milks its jokes a bit hard, but it is also heart­felt and in its qui­eter mo­ments feels real.

Dustin Clare and Camille Keenan play a would-be cou­ple in Sun­day; be­low, Marisa Tomei and Hugh Grant in The Re­write

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.