The Remains of the Day (1993) made it to my queue partly because of I’ve become fascinated with life in historical England. But the British aristocracy has not always caught my fancy. In fact, I recently re-watched Atonement, and noticed that I wrote the following about it in this blog more than two years ago:
- “Early on, I didn’t enjoy the movie because it involved the British aristocracy, a subject that doesn’t interest me much.”
Oh, how things have changed for me since stumbling across Pride & Prejudice ((2005). Like Atonement, The Remains of the Day is set in England from pre-WWII to post-WWII. But unlike many of the British-aristocracy movies, this one does not deal with class-focused romance and marriage; rather, it concerns an emotionally repressed butler, the estimable Anthony Hopkins and his loyal subordinate, housekeeper Emma Thompson. Both actors, along with the film, were nominated for Oscars, but did not win. The Rotten Tomato critics loved the movie at 97% and the audience was almost as favorable at 90%. I agree with the audience and give it three and a half stars out of four. The two leading characters are wonderfully interesting and the backdrop of an inept aristocracy in over its head in dealing with Germany and Hitler is fascinating.
The Edge of Love (2008) is described in a Rotten Tomatoes summary as a “beautifully drawn love story explores the bohemian underworld of war-torn London and the intimate complexities of two young couples whose lives and loves become dangerously intertwined.” Rubbish! Although Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, with his love triangle, can fairly be described as bohemian (i.e., a person who has informal and unconventional social habits, especially an artist or writer), there is no “beautifully drawn” love story here. Thomas, as played by Matthew Rhys, is an unprincipled, no-account drunk, and his wife, as played by Sienna Miller (now in American Sniper), is no better. Keira Knightly completes the triangle as Thomas’s childhood sweetheart who remains attracted to his charming, fun-loving ways despite getting married to an earnest, boring army officer. The person most responsible for this film’s disappointment is Keira’s mom, Sharman MacDonald, who wrote the script. As written, none of the characters are the least attractive or sympathetic and their evolving personalities are not credible. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 34% and the audience is only marginally better at 43%. I think they were both too generous and I give the film only one star out of four.
By contrast, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) has a likeable bohemian, played by Keira Knightley, and an even more likeable insurance guy, played by Steven Carell. The story occurs over the 21 days that mankind has to live after learning that a “Deep Impact” attempt to save the world had failed. During that time, new friends Knightley and Carell join forces to find his childhood sweetheart and her family. The Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 56%, and the audience similarly at 52%. Although the film’s storyline is sometimes disjointed, these are two remarkable characters and their blossoming relationship are so agreeable. Thus, I disagree completely with the Tomato critics and give the movie three and a half stars out of four.