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The Films of Stephen Frears

Gumshoe

Bloody Kids

The Hit

My Beautiful Laundrette

Prick Up Your Ears

Mr Jolly Lives Next Door

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

Dangerous Liasons

The Grifters

Hero

The Snapper

Mary Reilly

The Van

The Hi-Lo Country

High Fidelity

Liam

Dirty Pretty Things

Mrs. Henderson Presents

Click here for review.

The Queen (July 31/07)

Given the film's austere subject matter, one could certainly be forgiven for expecting The Queen to possess a slow-moving, stuffy sort of vibe. But buoyed by Helen Mirren's Oscar-winning performance and Peter Morgan's truthful, surprisingly funny screenplay, the film ultimately comes off as a compelling drama that effectively humanizes the title character - ensuring that she is, at times, a figure that's downright relatable. The movie details the turmoil within the monarchy in the weeks following Princess Diana's death, as Queen Elizabeth II (Mirren) - with the help of newly-elected Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) - struggles with the most appropriate way to respond to her passing. Director Stephen Frears' does a nice job of infusing The Queen with a straight-forward sensibility that suits the material quite well, though one can't help but lament the film's third-act transformation into a humorless, downright dry piece of work (ie the movie's never quite as engaging as it is in its opening half hour, yet the whole thing is certainly never boring). Mirren's justifiably lauded performance undoubtedly plays a key role in The Queen's success, and generally ensures that even those viewers with little patience for the Royal Family's exploits will find themselves sporadically riveted.

out of

Cheri

Tamara Drewe (November 2/11)

Based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, Tamara Drewe follows Gemma Arterton's title character as she returns to her hometown to sell her late mother's estate - with the film, for the most part, subsequently detailing the ongoing exploits of the small community's various residents (including Luke Evans' Andy, Tamsin Greig's Beth, and Roger Allam's Nicholas). Filmmaker Stephen Frears, working from a screenplay by Moira Buffini, has infused the early part of Tamara Drewe with a jaunty, lighthearted vibe that proves impossible to resist, with the affable atmosphere, which is reflected most keenly in the efforts of a uniformly charismatic cast, effectively (and initially) compensating for the decidedly lackadaisical nature of the movie's execution. It's only as the narrative adopts an increasingly episodic feel that one's interest begins to wane, as it does become more and more difficult to work up any real enthusiasm for several of the film's periphery subplots - with, in particular, the dull exploits of teenagers Jody (Jessica Barden) and Casey (Charlotte Christie) emblematic of everything that's wrong with Tamara Drewe's latter half. There is, as such, little doubt that the film slowly but surely wears out its welcome, which is a shame, really, given the promising nature of the movie's opening half hour.

out of

Lay the Favorite

Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight

Philomena (December 14/13)

Inspired by true events, Philomena follows struggling journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) as he reluctantly agrees to tell the human-interest story of the title figure - as Philomena (Judi Dench) sets out to find the son she was forced to give up more than 50 years ago. It's an inherently intriguing setup that's employed to consistently watchable effect by director Stephen Frears, although, by that same token, there's little doubt that the movie, which runs a brisk 98 minutes, does take some time to wholeheartedly get going - with the initial inclusion of rather needless flashbacks wreaking havoc on the narrative's tenuous momentum. Philomena benefits substantially, however, from the expectedly superb efforts of its two stars, as Dench and Coogan step into their respective roles with impressive ease and, eventually, come to share a chemistry that proves impossible to resist. And although the film suffers from a few recurring problems - the rather predictable nature of Martin's character arc, for example - Philomena becomes more and more involving as it progresses due to its increased emphasis on Martin and Philomena's investigation into her son's upbringing and life. There are, as such, a number of engrossing sequences spread through the film's second half, and while it's not quite able to become the tearjerker Frears clearly wants it to be, Philomena ultimately establishes itself as a solid little drama that is, more often than not, more effective as an actor's showcase than anything else.

out of

© David Nusair