Falling ill was, I suppose, inevitable. It is that time of the year, colds, get passed around and no matter how healthy you think you are someone is going to infect you. I got infected. Unfortunately, because I have Myotonia Congenita as well, contracting even a common cold is tiresome; literally. As my muscles are slow to respond even when I am well coughing and sneezing are twice as uncomfortable, frequently resulting in strains and tears to the muscles themselves, and very tiring. As I close in on finishing my latest novel Eugenica getting ‘man-flu’ was the last thing I wanted, but it happened anyway. The only good thing to come out of this was that I caught up on a couple of movies that I had been meaning to watch so here is what I thought of them!
A Royal Night Out
My reason for watching this movie was entirely to do with the location in which a large part of it was filmed, my home town of Hull. At the time this was a cause for excitement locally, as is probably understandable. The premise is simply that on VE Day, the celebration of cessation of hostilities in Europe in 1945, the Royal Princesses Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret escape the confines of Buckingham Palace and have a night in London town to celebrate the end of World War 2.
Actually I quite liked the idea, it makes the royal family seem a bit more human. Also, Sarah Gadon (Elizabeth) and Bel Powley (Margaret) are immensely likeable and seem to have a good rapport. It adds to the chemistry, which the whimsical nature of the story needs to be honest. It was perhaps inevitable that Margaret would be represented as already the party girl, getting whisked away by the atmosphere, amongst other things, while Elizabeth is more serious and a better judge of character.
The film looks surprisingly authentic, which considering that we citizens of Hull know that some of our streets, such as The Land of Green Ginger, were used to represent London, is an achievement. Using the release of emotion following such a long war as a device works to encourage the suspension of disbelief, and the charm of the movie sucks you in if you let it. At 97 minutes it is just the right length and employs a talented cast to good effect. I enjoyed watching it, a feel good film that avoids sentimentality and shallow moralising. I do not know if it is true and I do not care, the fun is in wanting it to have happened and having director Julian Jarrold making you think that it did.
A Little Chaos
Alan Rickman’s penultimate film is a period drama using King Louis XIV of France’s plans for achieving perfection in the gardens at Versailles as the driving force. Directed by Alan Rickman, who also takes the part of the king, the film looks beautiful and Rickman is quite simply imperious as Louis. The main story, however, follows the relationship of master gardener Andre Le Notre, who is charged with finishing the king’s gardens, and Sabine de Barra, a female gardener enlisted to help complete the project.
Sabine is a fictitious character but well written and ably portrayed by Kate Winslet. I would have liked to have heard more imaginative dialogue rather than watched her staring listlessly into space when in conversation with other characters, but I suppose she could only work with what she was given. However, this lack of emotional range was mirrored by Matthias Schoenaerts as Andre who seems bereft of feeling even when his adulterous wife has provoked him to an extreme. More Gallic passion would have worked wonders.
The film frequently looks fabulous and has some good moments of light humour. Alan Rickman dominates with his considerable presence and plays the role of an autocratic ruler beautifully. You do not have to be either an engineer or a gardener to appreciate the more earthy moments in the film, as we watch the Bosquet de la Salle-de-Bal come into existence, the end product is quite breath-taking.
Overall the film does not quite live up to the potential of either the imaginative story or the cast. A little more drama in the court of King Louis would have gone a long way towards giving it a sharper edge. Nevertheless, it is a pleasant way to spend 117 minutes and seeing Alan Rickman on the screen is always a pleasure, not to mention a good reminder that Severus Snape was not his only role!