About me

Get new posts by email.

About me

‘Wicked Little Letters’

Wicked Little Letters is a frothy comedy film that has been heavily trailed for months. As in the trailer, the comedy relies on the assumption that prim and proper 1920s characters using unexpectedly foul language is inherently funny. I think that it is, to a point, though perhaps not funny enough to support a whole film.

To my mind, the stand-out feature was Isobel Waller-Bridge’s score, which lifted the whole production, imbuing it with a sense of drama and emotion even when the script was a bit lacking. Waller-Bridge’s compositions also underpinned some fantastic musical/visual puns that were among the funniest bits of the film.

Unfortunately, the plot is a bit of a letdown. It concerns some expletive-laden poison-pen letters received by Olivia Colman’s character, and whether the police have correctly identified the sender, Jessie Buckley’s character—if not, who might it be? The answer is practically telegraphed from that start, so tension doesn’t really build, and the case is solved on-screen peculiarly early in the film in any case.

Now, I’m hardly the morality police, but allow me a paragraph on the wonky social ethics of the piece. I was irked. The film is written in such a way that we’re clearly supposed to judge the central characters with modern eyes, and sympathise with Buckley’s less buttoned-up, more ‘modern’ character who is harshly judged by the standards of the time. But despite the film being vaguely about the ridiculousness of the patriarchal society of the 1920s, we don’t see the main patriarch (Timothy Spall’s character) suffer any comeuppance for behaviour that—by modern standards—is domestic abuse. The script comes perilously close to making a joke of bullying and controlling familial relationships. It’s as though we’re invited to judge the women by 2020s standards but the men by 1920s standards. It’s uncomfortable.

But look, this is light comedy tosh: I don’t think we’re expected to think that hard. Let’s just laugh at Olivia Colman swearing a bit more. Most of the characters are two-dimensional clichés, as I suppose we ought to expect, and there are a few laughs along the way. Come for the chuckles, stay for the music. It’s fine.

This post was filed under: Film, , , , .

I’ve seen ‘The Lesson’

Let me say up front that this is the first film I’ve seen during this project that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and which I’ve also really enjoyed. My socks weren’t blown off, but I did have a good time.

The plot concerns a tutor (played by Daryl McCormack) hired for a young lad who aspires to Oxford’s English Literature programme (played by Stephen McMillan). The lad’s parents are played by Julie Delpy and Richard E Grant. The setting is a large manor in the English countryside. Grant’s character is a successful novelist and McCormack’s character is an aspiring novelist, who also made one of Grant’s character’s novels the subject of his PhD. The family’s butler is played by Crispin Letts.

The plot is vaguely thriller-ish with revelations about the sources of plots, the family’s history, and the developing relationships between the characters. There’s a healthy dose of moral ambiguity to set the whole thing in motion.

McCormack plays his role beautifully: he has a real capacity to imbue his characters with complex layers, which is exactly what is required here. I’ve seen him previously in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande which was a less good film, but in which he also played a reasonably complex character.

Delpy is similarly brilliant, and McMillan manages to portray his character’s repressed emotional depth with complete veracity. Letts’s character felt underwritten—perhaps scenes were cut—which slightly undercut his character’s intriguing arc. I don’t recall seeing any of these three previously.

But for my money—and perhaps this just demonstrates that I don’t know anything about film—Grant’s performance was off-kilter in this film. His character, like the others, is complex with facets revealing themselves as the narrative progresses. But Grant’s characterisation read as uneven to me, as though he was playing different characters with different motivations at different points in the film, rather than a single character who we were getting to know more completely. I don’t think that was the intention, but perhaps I’ve misunderstood it.

One of the best things about this film was the music, composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge. Like all great film music, it disappeared into the background a lot of the time, but occasionally drove the plot, or even provided moments of real humour. There’s a moment of musical levity with a robot lawnmower, which is a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Overall, this was great fun. I enjoyed watching it. It’s not the best film I’ve ever seen, but I’d happily watch it again if I had to. The plot is perhaps a bit contrived, but it is well done. It held my attention throughout, was intriguing, and had some really fun moments too. The slightly rubbish trailer undersells it. It’s worth 103 minutes of your time.

This post was filed under: Film, Post-a-day 2023, , , , , , .

The content of this site is copyright protected by a Creative Commons License, with some rights reserved. All trademarks, images and logos remain the property of their respective owners. The accuracy of information on this site is in no way guaranteed. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author. No responsibility can be accepted for any loss or damage caused by reliance on the information provided by this site. Information about cookies and the handling of emails submitted for the 'new posts by email' service can be found in the privacy policy. This site uses affiliate links: if you buy something via a link on this site, I might get a small percentage in commission. Here's hoping.