Saturday, 23 February 2013

I Give It A Year - Film Review

"It’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently or if your favourite films wouldn’t even speak to each other if they met at a party."
- Nick Hornby

I give it a year, i give it a year film review, i give it a year rafe spall, rafe spall, rose byrne

Hearing that this film was of the same ilk as Bridget Jones and Love Actually, I was instinctively expecting something very Richard Curtis-esque. Although I wouldn't say it reaches the same comedic heights as those films, it's well worth a watch, with a more than credible cast who deliver the witty script with aplomb.

Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne lead as a newly married couple, wed after only a few months of meeting, at the concern of their nearest and dearest, all of whom are dubious of the union's longevity. Following the trajectory of the crucial first year, ex-girlfriends and suave newcomers threaten to shake the already precarious foundations of the relationship.

Above all others, I love home-grown, British films. Specifically how they celebrate the humour (both the dry wit and sarcasm, coupled with the more slapstick); the idiosyncrasies of behaviour - a scene that hit this on the nail was one which poked fun at the tedious routine of calculating (to the penny) each person's share of the bill at the end of a meal - and all to a backdrop highlighting the best parts of the country, especially the West End.  (Notting Hill, Love Actually, Bridget Jones all being prime examples.)

I was slightly nervous that 'I Give It A Year' might end up being a parody of itself, slightly overwrought with the clich├ęs of the typical British rom-com, given the hype of it coming from the people who delivered the above films. Despite how much I love them, I think it could be quite easy to follow the same formula of these films, and translate them into a slightly different scenario with only, marginally different characters.

I can't say it was totally different - there were the generic sub-plotlines and archetypes (married characters realising their true love is elsewhere with elsewhere usually being, quite literally, right around the corner; the hapless and ever present, inappropriate best friend of the male protagonist - see Rhys Ifans in Notting Hill; and dubious characters in professional or authority positions (the vicar or priest almost always being a culprit, both in 'I Give It A Year', and Four Weddings and a Funeral).

stephen merchant, rhys ifans, i give it a year, notting hill

In films like these, there aren't any special effects, grand cinematography or overcomplicated storylines to distract audiences away from the writing or acting of the cast. I've been particularly fond of Rafe Spall since watching him in 'Pete Vs. Life' (which I'm really disappointed there's not been a third series of!), though I hope he won't be typecast as the hapless, slightly awkward and gawky "non-typical" male lead, unlucky in love and life (also seen in 'One Day'). I think he's great nonetheless and especially at comedic roles. His off-dialogue murmurings were a brilliant adjunct to the character interactions and made for a really personable and likeable performance.

Rose Byrne didn't come off in quite the same way - though this is probably due to her character being obviously intentioned to be more stern and in stark contrast to Spall's. I felt that we should have wanted to be equally sympathetic to both characters, though Spall's purposely came across as more deserving. Rose's character is frequently shown as snappy, fed up and out of sync with her new husband, whereas Spall seemed a bit more helpless and determined to keep the relationship working.

There are some really funny, laugh out loud moments, and the audience loved cringing in hysterics at the 'crude but could happen' moments, or at the blunt directness of character exchanges (most particularly those from Minnie Driver and Jason Flemyng as the exasperated, bitter married couple, serving as a warning for the newlyweds of what lies in store.)

It's been a while since a film like this really caught my eye, as I (probably quite unfairly) hold them up to the same scrutiny as the more stellar Brit-rom-coms. But again, with its solid cast that also includes Stephen Merchant and Olivia Colman and its more than well written script, I came away really pleased that I had taken a chance on it!

I couldn't help but add this gem in! All this talk of Richard Curtis and British rom-coms, it was only inevitable!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Be My Baby - Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron (Book Review)

As you'll come to notice, I am a huge enthusiast of the 50s and 60s. Like many, I'm enamoured with the music and love finding autobiographies of people who were involved in that world. I'm always intrigued to learn where people started out - usually I find they're not worlds apart from yourself; and I love hitting on a common note with someone I admire, even if it's something as random as your parents sharing the same occupation!

be my baby book, ronnie spector, the ronettes, be my baby book reviewI originally wanted to get my hands on "Be My Baby - How I survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness", but since it's largely out of print, the copies I've found online are out of my price range. I was holding onto hope that I'd chance upon it in a second-hand bookstore one day -but then I happened upon this gem in a Camden bookstore a year back. I'm not sure if there is much (or any) difference between the two (both are written in cooperation with Vince Waldron), or whether my copy is just a reprint - but I think it holds!

Be My Baby is a fast paced account of Ronnie's life, from her upbringing in the Spanish Harlem, the breakthrough of the Ronettes, through to her marriage (and breakdown) to mentor and producer, Phil Spector. What immediately struck me about Ronnie is that as much as she was enamoured with music, she was equally (and probably more so) with fame. She isn't shy in coming forward about her ambitions, and once hitting the proverbial 'big time', she relishes in it, regaling in stories of riot-inducing performances and strutting about onstage. Although for the most part her story isn't an easy one, and though at times slightly cocky, Ronnie speaks with a clear head and without self-pity. She recognises in retrospect her own faults and mistakes as well as rationalising those of others, which is applaudable once you know her life.

 What I can't fathom is why nobody has yet seized the chance to produce a Ronnie Spector biopic - the story is one with her at the epicentre of the sixties, floating in and out of everybody else's world. First hand accounts of Beatlemania, touring (and eating scrambled eggs!) with the Stones and even a 'romantic tryst' with Bowie, Ronnie is to me the Forrest Gump of her era. Her story would make a good game of "Six Degrees of Separation" - Cher, John Lennon (a recurring character!) and May Pang and even Bruce Springsteen make an appearance. What's more, her story is peppered with serendipity - there are a lot of 'right place at the right time' moments that would make for a more than decent film!



The Ronettes: Be My Baby
The Chiffons: One Fine Day
The Shirelles: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
The Ramones: Baby I Love You
Frankie Lymon: Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
Ronnie Spector: Don't Worry Baby
The Essex: Easier Said Than Done
Back To Black: Ronnie Spector
The Ronettes: Baby I Love You
The Crystals: He's A Rebel
The Ronettes: Do I Love You?

In all, I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in the era -  especially in terms of the music. (I always found another musician or person of note cropping up a nice surprise - especially the Beatles.) You really get a feel for how close knit the industry must have been back then.