Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: My Cousin Rachel

My Cousin Rachel
Cert: 12A / 106 mins / Dir. Roger Michell / Trailer

Now I haven't read the book of this, but I watched the film with someone who has and that's the next best thing. Burgeoning suspicions as to the original narrative's flow, complexity and undertones were pretty much confirmed by the time Mrs Blackout and I had reached the top of the steps outside the cinema.

Roger Michell's heavy-handed retooling of the Daphne du Maurier mystery/romance novel (coming after several other screen versions, of course), is less of an immersive page-to-screen adaptation and more someone skim-reading the study notes. 106 minutes is by no means a lean running-time, but the tale has so much groundwork to cover that it's tonally all over the place. Characters laugh in one scene, cry in the next and are apparently head-over-heels in love before the ice has melted in your Diet Coke.

And it's not just the running time which is the problem. The film boasts an impressive cast, but they'd be more impressive elsewhere. Sam Claflin is always a joy to watch, yet Michell's script gives his character Philip nothing to emote into, instead turning into a flip-book of obsession and mania. Likewise, Rachel Weisz (as the titular Rachel, no less) is given neither the screenplay nor direction to produce the performance we know she's capable of. Holliday Grainger is completely wasted in a role which essentially becomes a hatstand with a pout, and Iain Glen has been brought in to play The Iain Glen Character™. He does that well, to his credit. Everyone else is in nondescript nineteenth century peasants' clothing, tugging forelocks all the way to the casting office.

But my biggest beef wasn't with the identikit Sunday-Night-Telly performances, sets or scripting, but the fact that this is purported to be a period-set, claustrophobic, psychological thriller mired in moral and emotional ambiguity. What I saw tonight was the director continually shouting his interpretation at the audience, because even he knows the film's too damned butchered to make proper sense of the story.

Looks pretty enough, didn't hate it, wasn't bored by it; just came to dislike both lead characters within about twenty minutes. And when you don't like the protagonists, you don't care what happens to them. You're just sloshing around your Diet Coke and wishing you had more ice…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
It's a bit Far From the Madding Crowd; a bit Jane Eyre.
Not as good as one, not as bad as the other

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No, it's a Sunday night DVD at best.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I'd say no.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Lord, no.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not, to be fair.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Tim Barlow's in this, and he was in that Hot Fuzz alongside Simon 'Unkar/Dengar' Pegg.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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