Tuesday, October 11, 2005

More? I'd had quite enough, thanks

Four reasons not to write Oliver Twist off entirely:

1. Edward Hardwicke (above), plain wonderful as Mr Brownlow.
2. Pure's Harry Eden, natural and vivid as the Artful Dodger.
3. A terrifically funny scene with Alun Armstrong as a truculent magistrate.
4. A good, ghoulishly Polanskian moment when Bill Sykes tries to drown his dog.

Ten reasons why Oliver Twist still, all things considered, deserves a C–:

1. Why?
2. Polanski gets a better performance out of that dog than most of his child actors.
3. Has he forgotten how to cut? Virtually every scene goes on too long or ends too abruptly.
4. Why?
5. Kingsley's Fagin, a fastidiously assembled but resolutely unaffecting creation, is allowed to degenerate into an embarrassing string of "oy"s when the plot runs out of use for him.
6. Nancy, perfectly well played by Leanne Rowe, martyrs herself for some bland urchin she's barely shared a scene with.
7. Why?
8. Ronald Harwood's stuffily pedestrian screenplay never answers questions 1, 4 or 7.
9. Note to d.p. Pawel Edelman: there's powerfully bleak (see your own work on The Pianist) and then there's just mucky and dreary, like this. Not that the production design gave you much to work with.
10. I like "Food, Glorious Food", OK?


Nick Davis said...

I was sort of excited about this, but now that seems like a distant memory. Why would Polanski go to so much trouble if he had nothing invested in the material? And more than that, why did anyone finance it?

tim r said...

I couldn't tell you. It's been agony watching people contort their critiques of this to turn it into a "personal" project for Polanski - The Pianist II essentially. I just don't see it. Deprivation and rootlessness are obviously themes in the book, but he just reiterates them here rather than looking at them in a fresh or particularly emotive light. And, perhaps with half an eye on a family audience, the movie misses most of its chances for wicked gallows humour and real rot or squalor. It just ends up being bleak in a bland way, or bland in a bleak way. I'd much rather watch The Ninth Gate!