The Films of Simon Curtis
The Student Prince
My Summer with Des
Man and Boy
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky
A Short Stay in Switzerland
My Week with Marilyn (December 24/11)
Based on a pair of autobiographical books, My Week with Marilyn follows eager film student Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) as he lands a job with Laurence Olivier's (Kenneth Branagh) production company and is subsequently sent to work on the set of Branagh's latest film, The Prince and the Showgirl - with the film primarily detailing the friendship that eventually ensues between Clark and temperamental star Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). There's little doubt that My Week with Marilyn fares best in its opening half hour, as filmmaker Simon Curtis, working from Adrian Hodges' screenplay, offers up a brisk and lighthearted first act revolving around Clark's fish-out-of-water exploits on the set of Olivier's film - with the inherently engrossing nature of these scenes heightened by the efforts of a uniformly superb cast. (In addition to Branagh and Williams' strong work, My Week with Marilyn boasts stellar supporting performances from folks like Toby Jones, Judi Dench, and Dominic Cooper.) It's only as the movie begins to morph into a deliberately-paced melodrama that one's interest begins to flag, with the pronounced emphasis on Clark and Monroe's decidedly underwhelming escapades contributing heavily to the increasingly stagnant atmosphere. (It doesn't help, either, that Clark, for the most part, comes off as a one-dimensional figure whose wide-eyed enthusiasm remains his only distinguishing characteristic.) The egregiously lackadaisical vibe ensures that the novelty of the premise slowly-but-surely wears off, which ultimately does render My Week with Marilyn's more overtly positive attributes moot and cements the picture's place as a well-intentioned yet dramatically inert piece of work.
Woman in Gold
Based on true events, Woman in Gold follows Jewish refugee Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) as she enlists an America lawyer (Ryan Reynolds' Randy Schoenberg) to help her recover a valuable painting stolen from her family during the Second World War. It's a sound, seemingly foolproof scenario that's employed to consistently underwhelming effect by filmmaker Simon Curtis, as the movie's present-day sequences suffer from a dramatically-inert quality that grows more and more problematic as time progresses - with the strong performances ultimately unable to compensate for the narrative's relentlessly slick sheen (ie the movie has crowd-pleasing Oscar bait written all over it). It's worth noting, however, that Woman in Gold benefits substantially from a series of WWII-set sequences that are far more riveting than one might've expected; though such moments possess an extreme sense of familiarity (ie we've seen this sort of thing countless times), Curtis admittedly does an effective job of wringing suspense out of several less-than-innovative interludes. (There is, for example, a fantastic chase sequence involving two Jews attempting to make their way out of the country.) The passable atmosphere takes a severe hit as the narrative moves into its erratic second half, with the strong emphasis on the case's movement through various courts resulting in a hit-and-miss vibe that's more miss than hit (ie it's just not terribly interesting). Scripter Alexi Kaye Campbell's ongoing efforts to prolong the essentially one-note subject matter ensures the third act feels especially padded out, and it's impossible not to scratch one's head over the inclusion of pointedly pointless segments (including a time-wasting trip through Maria's memories) - which ultimately prevents the film from reaching the stirring heights that Curtis has aggressively aimed for.