– rated – HOT! HOT! HOT!
I can't think of a single thing wrong with this film. It is an absolute
textbook for actors, with a dream ensemble cast. Michael Caine (as Jack
Dodds) and Helen Mirren (as Amy Dodds) have never been better.
There's something about the quality of Mirren's voice in this role
which makes the character - she is just wonderful at showing she
understands something, without saying anything. The subtlety of her
performance is really something to behold. It is as if we see into her
Which brings me to Fred Schepisi, the director & writer of the
screenplay (adapted from Graham Swift's Booker Prize-winning novel).
Schepisi has always been an underrated director, but he's a master
storyteller (think of Six Degrees of Separation (1993), for example).
Yet Schepisi hasn’t made a feature film since 1997 (why?).
In Last Orders, Schepisi has managed to take the novel, introduce us to
2 generations of characters and many different time frames, make a
seamless screenplay, and then translate it all onto film (which is
ravishingly shot in a bleached, washed-out mist by Brian Tufano). When
the characters think of their past, it is not just 'now cut to
flashback'. It is more as if their thoughts just materialise. The
editing (by Kate Williams) is 'gentle,' if you can describe editing in
such a way. Nothing jars. Everything is done to unfold the tale
Schepisi is telling. The pacing is leisurely, and there is a surprising
amount of detail in the story, but every time you begin to think it is
about time for something to 'happen' - it does.
The music, which is one of the first things you notice about the film,
is written & performed by Australian Paul Grabowski. It is unusual,
wistful, beautiful and almost existentialist in tone. It's a
really original score.
I loved Bob Hoskins’ performance, too. His smile is so wonderful. And I
loved the humorous turn-of-phrase of his character, such as his
description of their favourite pub: "It's the Coach & Horses, but
it's never gone anywhere, 'as it?”
Also outstanding (and striking) was JJ Feild, playing the young Jack.
Apart from looking & acting like Michael Caine, he's also a dead
ringer for Cole Porter. If they ever decide to remake Night and
Day (1946, Michael Curtiz), he’s a shoe-in!
Although all the young actors are well matched to their older
counterparts, the least successful match is the horsy-looking Kelly
Reilly playing Helen Mirren as a girl. But that's just a quibble about
her looks, not her abilities. Ray Winstone is terrific again in the
role of Jack's son - he always plays the Cockney lad, and yet he always
gives us something new to relish. Tom Courtenay underplays brilliantly,
and David Hemmings is a revelation (and something of a shock!). I
didn’t notice a screen credit for the actress who plays June, the
Dodd’s handicapped child, but she was played by Laura Morelli, who does
not appear to have acted before.
At one point the film almost becomes a thriller about what Ray (Bob
Hoskins) will do with some money Jack gives him. But, no, it is more
about people - what makes them do what they do, and how you cannot know
what moves them, what makes them who they are (or might be). Time and
again we are shown that what appears to motivate someone might not be
the whole story.
The story ends so satisfactorily, and yet it is not overly neat. A lot
of Pints have been sunk. There are loose ends, there are lost dreams,
but there's also fulfilment, and acceptance, even of fatal flaws.
This film embodies so much of what I look for in a film. Don't miss it.
© Michèle M Asprey 2002
This review is copyright. You must not use any part without my