Each week Elma and I give you 5 opinionated but culturally relevant choices, based on our experience of curating smart sticky stuff for Ovation, Trio, Bravo, A&E, Sundance, Fuse, and others.
J.K. Rowling, like George Lucas before her, and Tolkien before him, and Mary Shelley before them all, plunged her hand into the dank bog of Jungian archetypes and pulled out a ring of narrative gold.
Harry is the Beowulf of our time – a fact that clicked into place for us last week when in the wake of the Paris attacks, one mother related how she had explained ISIS to her kids as “Voldemort”.
And out of the thousand faces, little Daniel Radcliffe, before he even knew what was happening, was chosen to don the mask of the Hero. And when that ended, and he was dropped back on earth, a normal mortal walking around with the face of a hero
No wonder he got drunk a lot after the Potter series ended.
Post-Potter, Radcliffe has worked hard to prove that he is more than just lucky. Maybe a little too hard.
The critics are roundly savaging this movie – and just as universally praising the yeomanlike efforts of the two stars to save it. James McAvoy plays Victor and Radcliffe plays a de-humped Igor.
If what they were aiming for was Guignol meets campy romp, evidently they haven’t gotten the alchemy quite right – despite references to the many many predecessors. The trailer even resorts to the “Fronkenshteen” gag from the Mel Brooks version.
We’ll be among the droves who are staying away from this over the weekend. Sounds like something to watch with the kids next summer.
If there has been any fault in Radcliffe’s efforts to expand his brand, it’s been an excess of earnestness.
In 2007, Radcliffe was 18 and thinking about a post-Potter career. He’d already done a well-reviewed Equus revival onstage (nude & all). And he’d played a sex-crazed spoof on himself in Extras.
But then he took two steps backwards.
The first was December Boys, an Australian orphans-coming-of-age movie which Variety notoriously tagged as “Harry Potter Gets Laid”. The movie was universally savaged – but nobody really panned Radcliffe’s acting. It was a pattern that would repeat itself.
The second was a TV movie My Boy Jack, an adaptation by David Haig (3 Weddings….) of his stage play about Rudyard Kipling’s son John, who marched off to WWI and ended up… well, like most of the boys who marched off to that war.
It played in the UK to a moderate audience on Remembrance Day, and premiered over here on the revamped Masterpiece Theater in early 2008. Much had been maed by PBS of Masterpiece going for a younger demo – loyalists were relieved when, with the exception of the star casting, the piece was pretty much business as usual: period, handsomely shot, and demonstrably serious.
If you’re in the mood, My Boy Jack is moving. The elder Kipling, a macho patriot, uses his considerable influence to get his (fatally) myopic son a commission. Haig plays Rudyard, Kim Cattrall plays the mother and a pre-Education Carey Mulligan plays Jack’s sister.
Two things are jarring. Jack’s myopia means he wears wire rim glasses, which means that he looks like Harry Potter with a mustache. The second is the casting of (and rightly or wrongly, we blame PBS) of Cattrall as the mother. She straddles an uneasy fence between frumpy and bodacious. You keep waiting for her to drop her accent and purr something inappropriate in her Sex In The City cougar voice.
Here in the U.S. this one is only available on DVD:
Radcliffe’s first post-Potter feature is emblematic of our OK/meh dichotomy toward his projects that we’ve seen in the last 3 years: the movie is a good and he puts himself in the service of the movie — to a fault. His performance is the thoughtful and well-crafted and opposite of a star turn.
By some accounts – and we believe them — he’s the wealthiest young performer in the U.K. But as the dutiful son of a casting director and a publicist, he never takes anything for granted and staunchly refuses to be one of THOSE young actors.
The problem for us, is that it seems a little unnatural. Half the time we go to movies looking for a dash of the narcissistic excess that Radcliffe so studiously avoids. Our grown-up lives are plenty restrained and responsible. We wouldn’t mind at all seeing a little delicious excess from a young, fabulously wealthy and lucky star.
But maybe that’s just not Radcliffe. Maybe he is showing us his most authentic self. But we suspect there’s some little chunk of Dionysian somewhere in his soul.
Is The Woman in Black worth watching? Yes, as a well-crafted entertainment. But we found it most fascinating as an episode in the young star’s ongoing personal drama.
The best of the recent-year “Beat” movies, and again, a creditable performance from Radcliffe, who, as a teenage Alan Ginsberg, has to deliver a nebbishy Jewish kid from Jersey who is also gay.
And he pulls it off, even the sex scenes, and ably holds the center of the drama, even though he’s upstaged by the flashier character of Lucien Carr, played by Dane Dehann. Forgive us, but it felt a little like Harry getting it on with Malfoy.
If you like The Beats at all (and who doesn’t) it’s worth seeing, but will leave you a little hungry.
This is an abysmally overcute and clichéd film made bearable by a handful of superb performances – including Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis.
It’s impossible to watch it without being annoyed by the innumerable opportunities the director missed to make this better. With a little skill and perspective it could have been a solid rom-com.
And it’s equally impossible to watch it without being charmed to no small degree by Radcliffe, Kazan, et al.
We include it here, because this is the only one of Radcliffe’s post-Potter performances (we haven’t seen him on the stage) that really kind of delighted us. Unburdened of the weight of being serious in any way, Daniel was freed to just be a charming and witty version of himself, which turns out to be remarkably likeable and real.
Should you bother to watch it? If you liked 100 Days of Summer and are in the mood for an extended-form sitcom, the answer might just be yeah, why not?
A not-exactly-horror metaphysical mess dotted with interesting bits. And like What If, Radcliffe manages to make it much more cohesive than it would have been otherwise.
So two interesting things here. First — a core DR phenomenon: the worse the film, the better he looks. The better the film, the more he disappears into the fabric of the movie. Is he taking more risks as time goes by…? Or that he’s getting offered worse roles…?
Second, this is a seriously weird film, with a wide, dark, almost literally Dionysian streak. It’s like Radcliffe (who is still only 26, for God’s sakes) is looking for a genre piece to work out the deeper mythiness of his cultural archetype. As an actor, as a person, as a cultural figure, he’s saddled with a heroic darkness that he can’t quite own, but can’t ignore either.
Anyhow, this one is worth watching as the kind of audacious mess that is successful in going places others haven’t.
A LAGNIAPPE… OR TWO…
Here at The Thread, we always try not to burden our readers with the latterday curse of too much choice. But since it’s a long weekend, two more quickies:
In David Copperfield (1999), you get to see the ineffably cute little Daniel who would soon score one of the plummiest child star roles ever created. With Bob Hoskins, Emilia Fox, Maggie Smith and Ian McKellan.
And A Young Doctor’s Notebook (2012) is a somewhat shaggy low-budget TV piece that features Radcliffe and John Hamm in an adaptation of a lesser-known work by the cult Russian author Bulgakov. Again, the uneasy mixture of darkness and humor that has become the hallmark of this stage of his career. Can this mean that somewhere in the world a Master and Margarita is in the works?