Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

“Bright Young Things” (+)

I went to see this movie because of the generally good review it received by A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Referring to “Vile Bodies,” the Evelyn Waugh book on which the film is based, he wrote that it is regarded by some critics “as the funniest novel ever written in English.” I rarely write about directors when reviewing a film, but Scott’s praise of this film’s director, Stephen Fry, caught my attention. He said, “Mr. Fry revels in the chaos of the plot, and the profusion of arch one-liners and zany set pieces gives the picture a hectic, slightly out-of-control feel.”

Before entering the theater, I polled about ten people leaving the earlier show. They were evenly divided in their opinion of the flick. After seeing it, I was both repelled and attracted to it.

The movie takes place in the 1930’s which becomes apparent when Neville Chamberlain’s voice is heard announcing t a state of war with Germany in September 1939. The acting and the characters themselves, particularly that of the lead Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), is reminiscent of the television series “Brideshead Revisited” which was far better than this film. The characters are zany and the plot is gossamer. The dialogue is often funny, although I missed some of it because of the accents.

The film begins with Adam arriving in Europe by sea where a customs official confiscates a racy novel he is reading. Later in the film, Nina (Emily Mortimer), a sweet but giddy young woman, wakes up in bed with Adam, her lover. She states that she hated their lovemaking, but if he was happy, that is all that matters. Ginger (David Tennant), a tea plantation owner, buys Nina from Adam, and during World War II, he sells her and her son back to him. The drunken major (Jim Broadbent) takes 1000 pounds from Adam to bet on a horse. He disappears, is seen at odd moments, and in the middle of the war he gives Adam 34,000 pounds from a winning bet. Colonel Blount (Peter O’Toole) is Nina’s father. Early on he gives a check to Adam, who is broke and wants to marry his daughter, Nina. But he signs it Charlie Chaplain making it worthless. I told you it was zany.

I enjoyed the last 15 minutes of the movie more than the first hour. I decided to give it a plus, because with all of its infirmities, it certainly is unusual and all of the actors give superb performances. But I could have sided with those who gave it a minus. So, you have been warned. This flick is a gamble.

“Donnie Darko” (-)

This 2001 movie has become a cult film. The current version of this flick, which includes 20 minutes of deleted scenes from the original (the director’s cut), has been showing in a number of art houses around town.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is bipolar and schizophrenic, and his best friend is a rabbit who appears from time to time to counsel him. When the original film was released, Gyllenhaal was not a well-known actor, but today he is in the Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire category. His portrayal is well done as are those of his mother, Rose (Mary McDonnell), and his teacher, Ms. Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore). Ms. Barrymore also directed the film.

The scenes are generally very dark in tone and color. The people whisper and occasionally a sense of dread and oncoming tragedy is present. I don’t know what 20 minutes were added to the film, but in my opinion they only added to the tedium. I had the feeling I was being held captive, and I couldn’t wait to escape. Avoid, unless you are interested in cult films, good or bad.

– Ed Koch