UK Critics Consensus: How To Lose Friends & Alienate People Does Just That; Whilst Brideshead Revisited Is Resisted

Plus, The Fall Falters and 88 Minutes is 88 Minutes Too Long

by | October 3, 2008 | Comments

In the UK cinemas this week we have two literary adaptations with Simon Pegg as an irksome hack in How To Lose Friends & Alienate People , and Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is given the big screen treatment, 27 years after the seminal ITV drama version charmed the British public. A hospitalised stuntman’s fantasy world is brought to life in The Fall , and Al Pacino thriller, 88 Minutes finally reaches the big screen after 3 years on the shelf. But what did the UK critics have to say?

How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, British journo Toby Young’s memoirs of his times at Vanity Fair is a painfully honest and scathing deconstruction of celebrity culture as seen through the eyes of the ambitious and egotistical hack. Many would have thought the source material to be too close to the bone to be made honestly and faithfully in Hollywood, but with a few name changes and a change in tone Robert Weide‘s adaptation hits the big screen with Simon Pegg as the renamed Sidney Young, and Kirsten Dunst as the love interest. With many of the UK critics being familiar with Young himself, many of the criticisms seem aimed at him rather than the movie, but most agreed that the film misses the satirical points from the source material, and relies too heavily on broad humour and slapstick, ending up neither as sharp or as satirical as it hopes. Plaudits though for Simon Pegg, who puts in a decent performance, lending warmth to the role, making you wonder how he could possibly alienate anyone. The film, though, has lost friends and alienated the critics, currently sitting at 41% on the Tomatometer.

Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited is probably most well known in the UK for the critically acclaimed 1981 ITV adaptation starring Jeremy Irons, and many questions were raised about how (and even why) you could hope to top the TV show which regularly appears in Best British Drama ever lists. With David Yates set to direct, and with a stellar cast attached (Paul Bettany, Jude Law) expectations were high, but when Yates stepped aside to helm Harry Potter, in stepped Julian Jarrold to direct. Most critics agreed that, although sumptuously produced, the movie suffers in comparison to the TV version, and the film lacks the subtleties of both the novel and the small screen version despite worthy performances from all the main cast. Overwrought and melodramatic, but well acted and enjoyable Brideshead Revisited currently stands at a healthy 64% on the Tomatometer.

Veering away from literary adaptations, Tarsem‘s The Fall tells the story of stuntman Roy Walker, who injures himself in a fall, and ends up bedridden. Distraught after losing his girlfriend, Walker retreats into a fantasy world with tales of wonder and magic, dreamt up for the benefit of fellow patient Alexandria. The UK critics have praised the film for its outrageous imagination and opulent fantasy, but many have labelled the film a sugar-coated folly for its lack of magic. Whatever the critics have to say, they all agree it’s like nothing else they’ve seen this year. At middling 58% on the Tomatometer, you may just have to see it to make your own minds up.

Last week Righteous Kill was a Righteous Turkey at 23% on the Tomatometer. This week, 88 Minutes, which was Al Pacino’s first feature with Righteous Kill director Jon Avnet, gets an overdue airing. Having been sat on the distributor’s shelf for nearly three years, 88 Minutes slips into cinemas hoping to avoid the Kill backlash. But it didn’t. At an even more paltry 5% on the Tomatometer, most critics can’t believe that Pacino even went back to Avnet for Righteous Kill, following the ridiculously bland, insipid and pathetic 88 minutes. Poor script, dreadful turns and clichés aplenty, maybe this should have just gone straight to DVD, which is probably is all it’s good for.

Also worth checking out this week…

Heavy Load — An intriguing and engaging rockumentary that demolishes stereotypes of the mentally challenged, and celebrates the inspirational story of Heavy Load. 100% on the Tomatometer

Import/Export – A grim and disturbing vision from Ulrich Seidl, makes for an uncomfortable and uncompromising picture of life, that is anything but comfy and pedestrian. 73% on the Tomatometer

Fear(s) of the Dark – This French animated horror portmanteau is monochrome and minimalist, visually stunning, but light on scares. 87% on the Tomatometer

Quote of the Week

“It’s a dutiful, good-looking slice of heritage cinema so empty that you expect Keira Knightley to show up at any minute.”

Brideshead Revisited. Sukhdev Sandhu, The Daily Telegraph.

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