Going north for any length of time, as much as I relish my second homes up there, I do miss my life by the Derwent. One aspect of that is my cinematic haven, NoHo’s State Cinema. I love going there – and double that if there’s an offering that attracts the attention of my lovely lady as well. For two out of the three I viewed in June, that was the case. It’s always pleasurable to discuss what we’d witnessed over a coffee or on the drive back to Old Bridgewater. And I think, with those two, we agreed that the critics got it wrong.
Both ‘Rocketman’ and ‘Tolkien’ received muted reviews, especially the latter. And in truth neither were top notch, so in that the experts were correct – but they were still a fine way to escape the winter chill for a couple of hours. The Elton biopic was not anywhere near last year’s ‘A Star is Born’, or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, as a production based around song. Most critics I read lauded the musical numbers, but panned the story-line in between. We, Leigh and I, disagreed. Certainly it went further in exposing the singer’s warts than the Queen vehicle did with Freddy’s. Taron Egerton, both vocally and visually, was a great match for the rock superstar. The problem, though, was it needed a performance to match Lady Gaga’s or Rami Malek’s sublime showings to send ‘Rocketman’ into the stratosphere. But, it was more than watchable.
Scribe Paul Byrne describes ‘Tolkien’ as ‘…polite, plodding and unconvincing,…’ Having never read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (‘The Hobbit’ was enough of a struggle), with the only one of Jackson’s film adaptations of these great works I have viewed boring me to tears, I didn’t have the same grounding as my Leigh nor, I suspect, most of the rest of the audience. Perhaps that was to this film’s advantage for me. I thought the tale of the author’s early years and the effect of fellowship and the Great War on his life was reasonable enough. It was somewhat ‘writ by numbers’ and never reached the great heights needed to shout its virtues from the rooftops, but it was, well, pleasing. Nicholas Hoult is the renowned man and he is patently one child actor that will not disappear from our screens as he ages. The love interest and future wife, Edith Bratt, was played by Lily Collins well enough to make her father, Phil, proud. The film has been disowned by Tolkien’s heirs, perhaps taking their cues from the critics and its playing around with with the time frame of aspects of the story. You could do worse, though, than giving it some time when it emerges on DVD or a television platform.
Sadly Leigh didn’t accompany me to see what for me was the pick of the bunch. And largely the critics concurred (four stars from Empire Magazine, 89% on Rotten Tomatoes). It’s lead, Irish lass Jessie Buckley, has something of the aforementioned Lady Gaga about her. Already noted for some previous standout performances, ‘Beast’ for example, she has a powerful set of lungs on her and she co-wrote many of the songs for ‘Wild Rose’. Many are suggesting this is her breakout performance to a successful career.
Before her prison term Rose-Lynn Harlen (Buckley) was a star on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. No, not the Nashville icon, although that is her dream, but a down at heel bar in Glasgow. One doesn’t normally associate country music (definitely not country and western – remember that!) with the UK, hence scope for furthering her career locally is limited. She has stars in her eyes but has three massive problems – zilch dosh, a criminal record and two kids. After her put upon mother (the always reliable and watchable Julie Walters) also proves to be a blockage to moving to the USofA, her prospects open up when she gains employment, as a cleaner, on the wealthier side of town working for Susannah (the always reliable and watchable Sophie Okonedo). She soon becomes the singing-hopeful’s mentor.
I suppose, with this, it helps to love the genre of music it portrays, but even if you’re an opera buff it would be difficult not to fall into entrancement with the feisty, flawed Emmylou/Dolly/Loretta wannabe. There’s some classic country ditties, as well as some originals. The final song is a corker. ‘Wild Rose’ will be one of the year’s best for this humble scribbler.
Trailer for ‘Rocketman’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3vO8E2e6G0
Trailer for ‘Tolkien’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Girzu81oS8Q
Trailer for ‘Wild Rose’ – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_Ths6k7qXk