Spling reviews Stan & Ollie, The Red Sea Diving Resort and Mayfair as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a biographical comedy drama, a historical thriller and and a crime thriller.
Starting off with…
STAN & OLLIE
The world’s most famous comedy duo attempt to reignite their film careers on the back of a grueling theatre tour of post-war Britain.
Director: Jon S. Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly and Shirley Henderson
– Starting in 1937, when millions of people around the world were enjoying the comedy of Laurel and Hardy, we discover the duo at the pinnacle of their careers trying to navigate fame and fortune.
– this a charming albeit melancholic journey on the flip side of Hollywood’s golden age, reminiscent of the equally weighted French biographical clown comedy drama, Chocolat
– Coogan has slimmed down for the role, able to convincingly play Stan Laurel across a 16 year spectrum.
– Together with Reilly, who has adopted a lifelike silhouette for Hardy, the two have good chemistry and a definite sense of history.
– While the prosthetic takes up a great deal of his face, Reilly’s still able to capture much of the beloved character’s spirit.
– The film’s focus is on Stan and Ollie’s relationship, but their wives are very present, echoing the sentiment behind the film, Hitchcock.
– it shifts between comedy and drama so seamlessly that the iconic theatre masks are indistinguishable at times.
– This tone certainly adds to the realism, allowing the actors to demonstrate their versatility yet downplays both aspects.
– Imbuing nostalgia from the time, delving into the post-war depression and even tapping into the realm of the single-tear clown, it’s a well-paced, enjoyable, moving and fine production.
A solid 7 on the splingometer
Moving on to…
THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT
Israel’s Mossad agents attempt to rescue Ethiopian Jewish refugees in Sudan in 1977.
Director: Gideon Raff
Starring: Chris Evans, Alessandro Nivola and Greg Kinnear
– This thriller is based on a true story, aiming for something in the vein of Argo and Captain Phillips
– Chris Evans leads a team of special operatives who pretend to be diving instructors in an attempt to evacuate scores of persecuted Jewish Ethiopians
– you get the impression that Evans has modeled his career on Tom Cruise, playing steely-eyed characters whose determination and fighting spirit win the day
– unfortunately, while talented, he often lands roles that lack nuance and depth
– while a powerful story, filled with potential and honouring real-life heroes, it’s ultimately underwhelming
– it’s easy to get onboard with the A-Team dynamic as he assembles a ragtag crew to infiltrate a dangerous country on a rescue mission, but it just seems lightweight
– while serviceable entertainment, it could have used more thought, tripping into the same problematic terrain as many other films heralding “white saviours”
– the ’80s soundtrack, wardrobe and happy-go-lucky undertones have parallels with Argo, yet don’t manage to muster the same excruciating tension as in Capt Phillips
– The Red Sea Diving Resort is more in line with 7 Days in Entebbe, grappling with an intense historical drama yet failing to captivate and truly realise the gravity of the situation
A flat 5 on the splingometer!
An estranged son must break the rules to save his family when his overbearing father falters.
Director: Sara Blecher
Starring: Ronak Patani, Warren Masemola and Wayne van Rooyen
– Mayfair is set in the Johannesburg suburb of the same name
– essentially a gangster movie centering on Muslims and their Somali counterparts, the South African thriller crime thriller has a unique slant
– thematically rich, layered in custom, religion, nationality and culture, it deals with a young man confronting his father’s legacy, compelled to rescue his family’s crime empire
– Blecher is known for Otelo Burning, Dis ek, Anna and Ayanda, proving to be one of South Africa’s finest directors
– Mayfair is moody, immediate and gritty creating a sense of realism and urgency through handheld cameras
– while this local thriller looks the part, it operates at some distance, making it a struggle to invest or empathise with its underdeveloped characters
– predominantly plot-driven, there are enough twists-and-turns to entertain, yet you don’t feel the real impact or weight of emotion
– while ritualistic and symbolic, the slaughtering of animals on screen always divides audiences and unfortunately, Mayfair contaminates its likability quite early on
– It’s a bit of a challenge, but shines a spotlight on a curious community and has just enough clout to tip the balance in its favour
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer
So just to wrap up…
STAN & OLLIE… a fine production compelled by strong co-lead performances, a nostalgic throwback and a bittersweet tone… A solid 7!
THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT… a powerful true story and determined performances are undermined by lightweight characters and a thin script… A flat 5!
MAYFAIR… while promising, layered and moody, this gangster thriller falters and hinges on underdeveloped characters… A satisfactory 6
For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!