Why I’m not on-board the Redmayne Train


It is easy to confuse three of Great Britain’s best actors working today – Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne. Cumberbatch, thanks to everything from Doctor Strange to 12 Years a Slave, has developed a sterling reputation. His weird and wonderful performances showed off a bright personality. Indeed, over the past few years, the actor has starred in almost everything. Along with his star-making turn on Saturday Night Live last month, the performer has stepped out of his heroes’ shadows and become a solid A-lister.

Hiddleston is a multi-talented performer and all-around jokester. Like Cumberbatch, Hiddleston’s internet fame relies on gifs and memes. His turns as Loki in the Avengers flicks, along with numerous independent flicks and out-there character-dramas, have also assisted the British Thespian. Admirably, Hiddleston and Cumberbatch have extended their talents to London’s West End (whenever they get time off from tinseltown).

Redmayne, on paper, has yielded critical and commercial acclaim. Statistically speaking, very few actors ever have had everlasting success in Hollywood. He deserves praise for achieving what so many try at and fail to accomplish. However, does he deserve it? On the one hand, his earlier performances in My Week With Marilyn and Les Miserables are noteworthy. The performer once turned seemingly indistinguishable characters into charming rogues.

In those performances, his off-screen charm came to the fore. On the Graham Norton/late night show format, Redmayne provides (coasts by on) a fresh smile and cute stories about his career. More often than not, his appearances are worth tuning in to. He also engages with the other guests better than most seasoned A-listers do. His Graham Norton Show appearances alongside the likes of Jennifer lawrence and Bryan Cranston make for series highlights.

So, what is going wrong on screen? For one, he is continually sidelined with woeful material. On paper, Jupiter Ascending, Fantastic Beasts, The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl are interesting choices. In execution, they all suck. In his defense, even the best actors could not save those particular projects from their woeful direction and messy scripting. Maybe it’s his agent’s fault after all…

The four aforementioned stinkers have turned me away from Redmayne as a performer. Jupiter Ascending is, of course, an inconsequential mess of biblical proportions. The Wachowski siblings have only deliver one worthwhile movie (The Matrix…17 years ago). Since then, their pride and ambition have continually tripped them up. Jupiter Ascending is the worst of the bunch. Redmayne’s tiresome performance sums it up – laughable and over-the-top without purpose. Taking a turn into villainy, Redmayne makes (theoretically) interesting choices. Some lines are whispered, others are screamed in a high-pitched wail. His waspish, wimpy persona makes for a stereotypical Gary Oldman-villain turn without anything going on beneath the surface.

Of course, The Theory of Everything placed him directly in the spotlight. He picked up the Oscar for Best Actor and never looked back, leaving Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) star Michael Keaton without that elusive golden statue. As you could probably guess, I believe Keaton should have won it that year. Keaton poured his soul into that performance – expertly playing a washed-up, over-the-hill performer with one more breath left to give. Despite the mixed reception to the movie, everyone praised Keaton’s magnetic performance and return to A-list status. Of course, typical docudrama/Oscar bait saw Theory of Everything‘s star cross the line first.

The Danish Girl was even more egregious and disastrous than the latter movies. Director Tom Hooper, fresh off overrated misfire The King’s Speech and slightly-better Les Miserables, wanted to grab another golden statues with both hands. He failed spectacularly. In this case, Redmayne is underserved, nay obliterated, by Hooper’s annoying direction and the screenplay’s pure sappiness. Redmayne is thrown into a wholly underwritten role. Playing a transgender, true-life figure, his role and performance should have knocked it out of the park. However, the IT-actor is left to give an array of over-the-top flourishes.

Of course, Redmayne is a rich, acclaimed actor working on his own career and life. Hollywood is certainly a treacherous stretch of terrain for everyone, and he seems to be handling fame well. Future projects may indeed give Redmayne his first 100% beloved performance. However, he is currently walking a tightrope between sensitivity and a sub-par Hugh Grant impression. For now, we’re left to fear what franchise or hot property he will be involved in next.

Cinema Release Round-Up: Carol & The Danish Girl


Director: Todd Haynes

Writer: Phyllis Nagy (screenplay), Patricia Highsmith (novel)

Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler

Carol-Poster


Release date: January 14th, 2016

Distributors: The Weinstein Company, StudioCanal

Country: USA, UK 

Running time: 118 minutes


4/5

Romantic-drama Carol is one of the biggest Oscar contenders of 2015. From the outset, the movie packs a significant punch – featuring a socio-political/forever taboo topic, a stacked cast, and talented director. It fits the definition of a critical darling – resembling the type of drama people shower with praise during Oscar season.

Thankfully, with Carol, the wave of positive feedback and awards is warranted – benefitting the aforementioned pedigree, subject matter, and alluring narrative. The story is set in the 1950s New York City, illuminating the last era of formality and normality in US history. Aspiring photographer Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is struggling to be enthusiastic about her life. Working at a high-end department store, she instantly connects with single mother Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett).

The narrative, similarly to similar LGBT-related dramas/love stories (Brokeback Mountain), revolves around a touching, slow-build romance between polar opposites. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, the film illuminates the original text’s fascination with 50s-era existence. Thanks to Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay, the film relates issues of yesterday to today’s socio-political climate. Without overstating its welcome, the film makes for a startling reminder of society’s unease and disdain.

Focusing on the essential aspects, the central conflict revolves around Carol and Therese’s yin-yang dynamic. Director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There), avoids convention at every affecting twist and turn. In a nonlinear fashion, the story finds its focal point in the opening scene before flashing back to the beginnings of Carol and Therese’s connection. Haynes, handling similar material with Far From Heaven, depicts their relationship with reverence and restraint.

The performances solidify Carol’s emotional impact and socio-political resonance. Blanchett, with two Oscars for searing performances in The Aviator and Blue Jasmine, is undoubtedly one of contemporary cinema’s finest actresses. Stepping outside her comfort zone once again, the Australian icon immerses herself in this confronting role. If not for Brie Larson in Room, Blanchett would be picking up a third Oscar this season. Similarly, Mara portrays the tiniest details with careful precision. Matching Blanchett point by point, this still-rising star conveys her character’s inner turmoil with class.

Carol is a unique romantic-drama and character study – with Haynes, the screenplay, and the performers bringing humanity and dignity to a thought-provoking tale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=679wr31SXWk


 

Director: Tom Hooper

Writers: Lucinda Coxon (screenplay), David Ebershoff (book)

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw

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Release date: January 21st, 2016

Distributors: Focus Features, Universal Pictures International

Countries: UK, USA, Belgium

Running time: 119 minutes


2½/5

The Danish Girl is chock-a-block with everything you would expect from an Oscar-bait docudrama. The director’s style resembles that ‘British’ style of period-piece filmmaking, the script ties itself too closely to a subject you cannot ignore, whilst the actors and performances reek of attention-seeking theatrics. From a mile away, this docudrama comes off like a template of everything done 1000 times before.

The Danish Girl is not as trite or idiotic as you would expect, but it is still not good either. The story examines one of the most inspiring transgender cases in modern history. It begins with the sizzling marriage between artists Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) in mid-1920 Copenhagen, Denmark. Gerda, to attract attention from local art galleries, paints portrait paintings of Einer in women’s clothing. However, after a string of outings in the get-up, Einer reveals his inner self – a woman named Lili Elbe he has hidden for decades.

The film marks a cavernous rift between story, direction, and performances. This version of events, based on the 2000 novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, is only loosely based on the interesting, socially relevant true story. Being the first recorded case of gender reassignment surgery, these events deserve more than Hooper’s self-conscious, tepid interpretation. The screenplay, unsure of its intended audience, shows and tells throughout the film’s exhaustive run-time. After each revelation and emotionally gripping moment, the characters forcefully describe their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Director Tom Hooper had similar troubles bringing The King’s Speech and Les Miserables to life. Like his preceding Oscar favourites, his style overshadows and eventually suffocates the intriguing central premise. His direction – based around ‘unique’ camera angles and movements – steals the spotlight. However, Hooper never confronts or delves into the significant social, cultural, and psychological themes.

Thanks to Hooper and Redmayne, the film presents timid versions of transgender characters. Redmayne’s repetitive, one-note performance is insulting – depicting Einer/Lili’s conflict by touching fabric, quivering, blinking uncontrollably, whispering, and wincing in every scene. Since his Oscar-winning performance in The Theory of Everything, the performer has shown limited range and subtlety. Vikander eclipses her counterpart, bringing personality and charm to a difficult role.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d88APYIGkjk

The Theory of Everything Audio Review: Broken Wheels


Director: James Marsh

Writers: Anthony McCarten (screenplay), Jane Wilde Hawking (book)

Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis

Theory_of_Everything


Release date: January 1st, 2015

Distributors: Universal Pictures, Focus Features

Country: UK

Running time: 123 minutes


 

2/5

Review: