I am all for subtle, glacier-moving, incrementally-plodding plot, dialogue-heavy films. So long, that is, as they are interesting, whether it be through the plot itself, the characters’ interaction, the cinematography or shooting cuts. But I have to draw the line in part with The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg’s new film currently at the Main Art Theatre (and screening at WIFF’s Summer Series in August). This story, which may be semi-autobiographical, is about a young filmmaker Julie’s (Honor Swinton Byrne) coming of age in London circa early 1980s. Well, it’s really about Julie and her boyfriend Anthony (Tom Burke). Julie is supported in relative student luxury by her landed gentry parents (her mother portrayed by the actress’s real mother Tilda Swinton). And she’s romantically involved with a supposedly high class and intellectual twit, whom she’s mad about despite his substantial shortfalls. And that’s about all there is, folks. Perhaps certain film critics (92% approval in Rotten Tomatoes) have been taken in by the film’s slowness, minimal dialogue, shotgun shots and other “atmospheric” touches. Which would all be good if the film had anything to say beyond its strict portrayal of two people, who could really be any 20-somethings in the confusing part of early adulthood.
I’ve always been a fan of Elton John – how can you not be? - but didn’t have a particular interest in seeing Dexter Fletcher’s (and the real Elton John-approved since he’s executive producer) $40 million biopic, Rocketman, about one our era’s top music makers and flamboyant rock stars. I went to see anyway and the film turned out as suspected. But first things first. Taron Egerton as John sports an uncanny likeness and his singing is almost, but not quite, John’s voice. That’s alright; we know this is a movie – approximation is fine. And Egerton, who must know this role was a high bar, should be applauded for persisting in it as well as he does. Otherwise, the plot is one of those depicted by flashbacks - kind of hackneyed don’t you think? – which combines, a la magic realism, different parts of John’s life, such as childhood, with images of his later career. In many ways this movie is an out and out musical with several just-good-fun dance sequences. The best parts - in fact they're exhilarating - are depicting Elton in performance. The rest – his boyhood, meeting song writer Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), coming to terms with his gay identity, alcoholism and drug addiction, all pass the test as credible filmmaking. But for an overall filmgoing experience the movie deserves a B.