Friday, April 18, 2008

FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL - a melancholy drama about guilt and fear

Are you wearing make-up?  Fuck off.
The first half hour of Baillie Walsh's intriguing movie is a witty indictment of the savage superificiality of Hollywood. Daniel Craig plays Joe Scott - a self-indulgent, narcissistic, ageing Hollywood star whose cocaine-fuelled lifestyle has alienated his personal assistant (Eve) and his agent (Mark Strong in a fantastic suit and an even better accent). The death of Joe's child-hood best friend leads him to drunken reflection and takes the movie into an extended hour-long flash-back sequence. Amid the pitch-perfect bric-a-brac of 70s Britain, a teenage Joe (Harry Eden) demonstrates that character is fate. He could've had the life of his best friend Boots, dating a local schoolgirl called Ruth. But instead, he drifts into a relationship with a predatory older woman (Jodhi May) only to be brought up short by the consequences of the relationship. Guilt-ridden, he runs away, and presumably kept running all the way to Hollywood and the ultimate life of no consequences, until his past catches up with him.

FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL has much to recommend it. It's patient, intelligent, the characters seem credible and the period detail of 1970s Britain is impressive. The use of period music in the score is absolutely spot-on, and special mention must be given to John Mathieson's wonderful photography. The cast is good, with Helen McCrory and Miriam Karlin particularly good in smaller roles. The only slight mis-step is in the final segment, where the ageing star returns to Britain. On his way to confront the grieving widow he makes a statement about how standing still is more courageous than taking action which seems utterly trite and belies the more enigmatic atmosphere of the rest of the film. In addition, I feel Claire Forlani is mis-cast or perhaps mis-dressed (is that even a word?) as the widow. In her Tiffany necklace, skinny jeans, riding boots and perfect make-up, she looks nothing like the widow of a heavily indebted, poverty-stricken rural Briton.

These quibbles aside, FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL is a melancholy, visually impressive movie that deserves attention.

FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL is on release in the UK and opens in Portugal on June 5th.

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