Tag Archives: Domhnall Gleeson

Goodbye Christopher Robin

I wonder in what ways the world would have been different if Alan Milne had not married a perfectly horrid wife. Daphne is an excellent socialite but not terribly prone to marital bliss. She waited for her husband to come back from war and is not impressed with the man who comes back. Her advice to just “not think” about the war is not exactly practical, and then she has a son she doesn’t want or know how to love to cheer him up, and that doesn’t work either!

But of course it’s their son, C.R., aka Christopher Robin, aka Billy, whose stuffed animals and wild imagination inspire the very thing he’ll become known for. And it’s his wife’s abandonment of the family that allows father and son to spend meaningful time together, time enough to write the stories that will enchant the world and change their family forever.

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Domhnall Gleeson plays the famous author A.A. Milne, a man ravaged by war, confused by his wife, haunted by the characters he created. Winnnie the Pooh is a beloved story for children, but the people behind it are much darker than I’d imagined. This is not really a happy story. Margot Robbie plays his flitty wife, a woman easy to scorn but Robbie humanizes her, has compassion for her. Kelly Macdonald plays the woman who actually cares for young C.R., a nanny her charge calls Nou but the world will know as Alice, from the books. She’s the one who bears the burden placed upon a little boy upon whom the whole world has expectations. The cast is quite wonderful; even the little kiddo (Will Tilston) playing Christopher Robin is good, as he must be.

But as you can imagine, it’s difficult to flick back and forth between the horrors of war and the child-like wonder that inspired a favourite picture book. It adds little pops of whimsy to lighten the mood, but make no mistake: it is a dark mood in need of lightening. At times the movie really hits the right note, but it’s a tone that’s hard to keep – especially since the point is not really Winnie the Pooh OR war, but the nasty consequences of celebrity. Goodbye Christopher Robin surprised me and moved me, but it’s not a water-coloured, feel-good picture, just the sad truth behind a story you thought you knew all too well.

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A Futile and Stupid Gesture

A Futile and Stupid Gesture is a Netflix original film that takes some chances. Netflix knows it has some leeway for experimenting in film, and this one was a particularly obvious choice for a little outside-the-boxing. It’s a biopic of sorts for Doug Kenney, the founder of National Lampoon. He was a funny guy who coloured outside the lines and this movie is a fitting tribute to him; it keeps you guessing.

Told in retrospect and narrated by an older, wiser, omniscient Doug Kenney (played by Martin Mull) who watches the events of his life unfold with a little disdain and a huge grain of salt. This device allows for a fair amount of editorializing and joke making at his own expense.

Will Forte plays Kenney, ages 18-33, and despite the fact that he’s 46 in real life, he’s a A-Futile-and-Stupid-Gesture-trailer-700x300great choice. He can pull off the sadness and the savage humour, playing it straight, breaking the fourth wall, talking directly to us, talking to himself. Doug Kenney was the Harvard editor of the Lampoon, and he had such an epically good time just fucking around with his good buddy Henry (Domhnall Gleeson) he decided to just keep it going and took their little humour magazine national. And as if the phenomenal success of the National Lampoon wasn’t enough, they expanded into radio shows, during which they enlisted the talents of Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis, Christopher Guest, and Gilda Radner. And then they started writing movies like Animal House and Caddyshack.  And while some might feel content with having their dreams come true and writing the most successful comedy movie EVER, Kenney never can be. He tries to fill the hole in his heart by shooting stuff up his nose. It’s a circuitous route that doesn’t work very well, but  not for lack of trying.

Director David Wain assembles an incredible ensemble to help him out, and by incredible I mean, lots of recognizable faces, but not necessarily well-suited for the parts. Joel McHale gets to play Chevy Chase, and even though the two were on a TV show together for many years, it’s like McHale doesn’t realize he’s a real person with tonnes of footage on which he could base his performance. Instead he does Joel McHale in a bad wig and unless someone is loudly calling him Chevy, I forget which one he’s supposed to be.

I admire this movie more than I like it. I think it’s okay, and at times quite funny, and probably worth a watch if you don’t mind weird stuff. But the thing is, the writers and director are a complete mismatch. The writing is unconventional and wacky and striving for something extra but the director is a little more conservative and a little less inspired so the whole thing just sort of clashes awkwardly. Forte and Gleeson are kind of wonderful though – maybe a little futile, but definitely not stupid.

Brooklyn

At last year’s Oscar ceremony, I was the only one who could reliably pronounce David Oyelowo’s name. A couple of years ago, Matt had to be called upon to serve up Barkhad Abdi’s mouthful. This year it’ll be my turn again because I’m the only one who can say Saoirse Ronan’s name (it sounds like Sir-sha; Ryan Gosling’s hint: it rhymes with “inertia”) and believe me, you WILL need to say her name come Oscar time.

Saoirse Ronan is perfectly cast in this movie and a nomination feels like Brooklyn_3a lock. She brings quiet strength and touching vulnerability to her role as a young Irish woman who sets sail to America all by her lonesome. She makes a new home for herself in Brooklyn but is called back to Ireland where she’ll have to make a choice to embrace the brave new world, or to seek comfort in more familiar opportunities.

I read the book years ago, and reread it recently to remember how very much I liked it. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking meditation on the immigrant story. The movie is a little more focused on the love story aspect, but I can forgive it that because it’s restrained and mature. 0009e215-630Nearly every aspect of this period piece comes out simply but spectacularly. The acting is lovely (her co-stars, by the way, do live up to her performance: Emory Cohen is up to the task, Domhnall Gleeson is exactly right, and what a year he’s had, by the way – this, plus Star Wars, plus Ex Machina, plus The Revenant, the dude’s on fire; I only wish we had seen more of Jim Broadbent as Father Flood) the cinematography is lush, the script is trimmed of excess fat, John Crowley’s direction is generous, the aesthetic is consistent and thoughtful, and Ronan is luminous.

MTM0MDkzNTM1MjYyNTc5MTY2I’m wondering, though, if it’s maybe a little too perfect. Because when the credits rolled, my eyes were dry. And this should be a deeply affecting movie. My little heart-strings were pulled extra taut reading the book, so why has the movie left me so unmoved? I can’t honestly fault a single thing in Brooklyn. It’s a perfectly crafted movie, but for me, there was just no emotional connection.