Neil Fox on film: The Artist, Goon, The Iron Lady

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premweb web visual jjf

The Artist

Released as 2011 drew to a close, this was the last great film of the year.

An imaginative silent movie that is poised to be the surprise of the awards season as it bewitches audiences, critics and professionals the world over.

Set at the end of the silent era, as sound entered cinema, it centres on a silent movie star who cannot make the transition and finds his career derailed as that of a young woman he meets and has a connection with along the way surpasses him.

It is a tragic love story and also a brutal comment on masculinity wrapped up in a glorious paean to cinema.

Full of imagination, humour and style, the performances are exemplary, particularly from Jean Dujardin as the extinguished movie icon. He has the charm and aura of a classic film star, out of pace with the current crop.

He and the director are responsible for the superb James Bond spoof OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, but this will see them emerge on to a far larger stage, delighting all with its passion for the medium and joy and exuberance for life and art.

The Iron Lady

The year starts with a massive film, about a massive character, but one that disappoints on almost every level.

The main level on which it doesn’t disappoint is in the performance of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in this biopic of the famously controversial prime minister.

She is remarkable, giving a rounded, human, nuanced performance. As you would expect. The trouble is that around her the film doesn’t do her justice.

Despite what you may read, this is a standard biopic, touching all the familial and professional milestones as Thatcher rises from grocer’s daughter to the most powerful woman in the world, but the film is cynically apolitical, avoiding dealing with the controversies and instead focusing on her heroic rise in a world of men and her deep love affair with Dennis.

It won’t change anyone’s opinion of her, but if anyone is going to feel more aggrieved it is those on the wrong end of her big, difficult decisions who will feel that her part in their struggle is at best glossed over and, at worst, completely ignored.

It feels like a shrewd career move for all involved (except Streep, who obviously doesn’t need it) but is resolutely uncinematic and unoriginal. Say what you like about Thatcher, but she was an original and her story deserves a better filmic examination than this laboured, badly written dross.

Goon

Looking for something light and dumb as an Iron Lady antidote? How about this patchily funny underdog tale about an outcast from a smart family who works as a bouncer and finds success in an ice hockey team?

Part Happy Gilmore, part Mighty Ducks is an easy ease into 2012, but it will likely be forgotten by the time you get back to the car park.