Friday, October 27, 2006

BREAKING AND ENTERING - Minghella bites off more than he can chew

Anthony Minghella's new film, BREAKING AND ENTERING is not quite up to the grand subjects and aspirations it sets itself, but is a compelling relationship drama nonetheless. That drama is set resolutely in London - the London of immigrant crime, prostitutes and that dirty of dirty words, "regeneration". And Minghella must be praised for rendering the back alleys of London's King Cross with as much menace as the back alleys of Venice in THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY. The score is also brilliantly judged.

In this world,
Jude Law plays an architect called Will whose long-time partner is a beautiful Swedish woman (Robin Wright Penn). The relationship is crumbling because she cannot quite trust Will to look after her autistic daughter and resents his feelings of neglect. Will works at an architecture firm in Kings Cross whose computers keep being nicked. He follows one of the thieves - a young Bosnian kid - and ends up seducing his mother, played by Juliette Binoche. He does not tell her he knows her son is a thief.

Where this movie works is in its depiction of complex modern relationships - long-term partners with step-children. Jude Law is fine but he is acted off the screen by Robin Wright Penn and Juliette Binoche. The movie also has a deep vein of deadpan humour, supplied by
Martin Freeman in a cameo re-run of his character in THE OFFICE. Better still, Vera Farmiga - who I hated in THE DEPARTED - is astoundingly good and wickedly funny in her role as a prostitute. She really elevates the movie and it is a shame when her character drops out of focus.

But the movie fails almost everywhere else. Accents aside, the immigrant story does not feel anchored in fact and minutely observed cultural details. The love story between the white architect and the african cleaner is picked up and tossed aside - as if Minghella's knows this is an interesting contemporary story but has neither the time nor the familiarity with the subject matter to flesh it out. The entire final 40 minutes is a mess - and badly needs a script doctor. The characters do things that seem contrary to their personalities - and the denouement seems - SPOILER ALERT - cobbled together in order to give closure to the protagonist with not a care for the treatment of Binoche's character. This makes the final scene of happy families in the architecture firm stick in the throat.

Finally, what we have is a relationship drama that sort of works surrounded and obscured by bigger social issues that are never convincingly portrayed. If you want a document of social life in London - check out DIRTY PRETTY THINGS - a far better movie all round.

BREAKING AND ENTERING played Toronto and London 2006. It opens in the UK on November 10th and in the US on December 8th. It opens in Australia, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain, Argentina, the Netherlands, Germany and Brazil in January 2007. It opens in Italy in March 2007.


  1. I had an email from Jose in Mallorca regarding Robin Wright Penn. Her role is small in terms of screen time - she has considerably less screen-time than Juliette Binoche who is the lead actress - but she probably has more than Vera Farmiga who has more of a cameo role. RWP gives a good performance with limited material: she has to appear nervous at letting her long-time partner parent her daughter and actually does gain our sympathy in this. The writers do this bizarre thing of blaming her depression and neuroses on vaguely being Swedish (!!!) rather than, say, living with an emotionally detached and adulterous man. I find her reaction at the end of the film a bit out of character but this is a fault of the writing not the acting. As to whether she will get any awards - Oscars etc - for this role, I doubt it. It's just not enough of a stand-out performance. However, this is no judgement of RWP who I think is a very fine actress.

    Ciao, Bina007

  2. I really liked Dirty Pretty Things. Chiwetel Ejiofor was brilliant (don't think I've seen any of his other films) & it was interesting to see Benedict Wong in a serious (but rather small) role after seeing him in the sitcom 15 Storeys High. It's just a shame that Sophie Okonedo irritates me just because of her face (don't ask me why, I have no idea). I know you were reviewing Breaking & Entering, but I haven't seen that lol

  3. Stoogy, you are a man of taste. I think Dirty Pretty Things is one of the best British movies of the last decade.

  4. "Stoogy, you are a man of taste."

    I am? Go me! :-D