Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Caught this flick the other night channel surfing and realized I'd either never seen it before or the brain operation wiped out all memory of having seen it. Which is surprising as I'm a huge Minnie Driver fan (and am sad she hasn't appeared in many movies in recent years). I never met her, though she did walk in front of my car stopped at a stoplight in Beverly Hills one day back around when this film was made (mid '90s).

I wanted to roll down my window and shout what a fan I was of her work, but can't remember if I did or not. She had a wry little smile on her face and looked totally out of place in that glamour obsessed community, as though she'd been plucked from the English countryside or Vermont or somewhere rural and peaceful and unpretentious, at least in terms of glamming it up.

CIRCLE OF FRIENDS isn't a great movie. It's heavyhanded and at times ridiculously so (Alan Cumming's simpering perv portrayal is so over the top it's almost hilarious, and at times seemingly meant to be as the film can't make up its mind if it's a farce or serious drama, Colin Firth is also almost melodramatically villainous in the PERILS OF PAULINE moustache stroking way).

But if you appreciate good acting, watching Minnie Driver (and some of the other actors, including my namesake the late great Irish actor Mick Lally) is reward enough. It's a tour de force performance that shows me, at least, why she is one of the great, classic movie actors of our era.

This film which focuses on the making of PSYCHO and it's renowned director Alfred Hitchcock is also a heavy handed over the top exercise in mixed messages. It too comes across at times like a farce and at other times as a serious attempt to reveal some Greek tragic elements, but ends up, for me, being a kind of campy mess.

With some exceptions, most importantly the performance of Helen Mirren as Hitchcock's wife Alma. Again, it's worth watching if you appreciate great performances because Mirren seems incapable of giving anything but. Thankfully, because Anthony Hopkins, though also one of the greatest film actors of our era, at times reduces his portrayal of Hitchcock to a caricature. There was very little in his performance that seemed real enough to make me care, let alone have any true insights into who the man was other than another perv, in his case obsessed with blondes etc.

Scarlett Johansson, another great film actor, does her usual great job and her scenes stand out as some of the best, other than Mirren's. But Johansson's scenes always made Hopkins' scenes better, whereas even the great Helen Mirren seemed at a loss at times with Hopkins' two dimensional acting. He did have some great moments too, but totally inconsistently. I hope this role doesn't leave Hopkins with the same hammy residue Al Pacino seemed burdened with for a few years after his equally heavy handed inconsistent but at times hammy performance as that blind military guy who couldn't stop saying Hoo-Ah every time he opened his mouth.

No comments: