Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Jewel From England

I'm still smarting from some films that were well-reviewed and stunk to high heaven when I saw them.  The last one, the absolutely dreadful "Song To Song" by renowned cinematic hack Terence Malick, officially became the first movie I ever walked out.  Thirty-eight minutes was all I could muster of that tragedy.

So I hear good stuff about "Their Finest" and I head out with trepidation.  And, then single-handedly, this little film restores my faith in the medium all over again.  Leave it to England to do that.

"Their Finest" is set against a backdrop that is fascinating to me.  London, 1940 with Nazi bombs making regular appearances all over town.  I've heard the stories from two good older friends of mine.   One of them was born under the bed during a blitz.  Here, Catrin is a young copywriter going through the motions in a live-in relationship with a painter. Somehow, she is plucked out of nowhere by a film company who wants a female perspective on a movie they are making and will be used to bolster British nationalism as well as let America know what they are going through every day.   The stiff upper lip must be shared.

At work, Catrin winds up with a writing partner, Tom Buckley, and their relationship grows slowly and naturally.  Catrin also encounters the film's star, Ambrose Hilliard, played wonderfully as always by Bill Nighy ("Love Actually"). Effectively, "Their Finest" becomes a movie-within-a-movie as you watch the production staff work to make a film that will show people how strong the British can be.   This might be the most fascinating backstage story since "The Bad and the Beautiful."  You really feel like you're on that set and living the ups and downs of movie making.  

Meanwhile, the blasts outside are numerous and devastating.  Characters go home at the end of the day to find their home in ruins.    Ambrose literally seems to lose his agent overnight.   And, as a production assistant casually sipping up a cup of morning tea, she just happens to mention that her landlady was killed the night before.  How did these people make it through this? Indeed, this was a type of courage that we probably will never see again, especially here in the now-completed-dumbed-down United States.

Where "Their Finest" loses a half-star in rating from me is the ending, which turns depressing and mawkish for a bit.   In retrospect, it was the best conclusion that director Lone Scherfig could conjure up and I get it now.   But you sorely wish "Their Finest" had the happy ending that Catrin crafts for the embedded movie.  But, at the end of two hours, I realize my time was well spent and, for once, the good reviews were spot-on.  Bravo...for a change.

LEN'S RATING:  Three-and-a-half stars.

Dinner last night:  Teriyaki beef and vegetable stir fry.

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