Let’s be honest, there are really only two ways that you can write about this movie. Either, you can bathe in the warm glow of its great silliness and celebrate the fine comedy actors and the cameo-studded cast. Or, you can fess up and tell people that it is also very, er, thin. In fashion, thin is good. In script writing, not so much.
The TV series on which this is based was a huge cult success in the nineties, and deservedly so. The writing was sharp and the satire on the vapid know-nothings of the fashion and PR world was sharp and timely. More importantly, the characters were so well realised. Jennifer Saunders (who wrote this movie version, incidentally) was wonderful as the ditzy and completely un-grown up parent whose mawkish, ill-judged attempts to recover ground with her knowing daughter, Saffie (the perfectly-cast Julie Sawalha, who is back in the role here) were uncomfortably spot-on. Of course, Joanna Lumley stole the show as the frightful Patsy, a coke-powered cougar with a sneer the size of Harrods’ front window.
All the above is in place here, and, as noted, there are cameos by the champagne bucket load. Everyone pops up at one point, all having jolly good fun against the backdrop of London as a glamour capital. The plot is stretched like a botoxed facelift. Eddy thinks she is going to rescue her PR career by representing Kate Moss. When a terrible drunken mishap happens, Eddy and Pats have to go on the run. Of course, they go to the poshest part of the south of France. That’s about it, really.
The locations are absolutely splendid, and that is both part of the visual appeal as well as the entry point for more satire on the dodgy and partially-embalmed super rich. The film also deals with the fashion scene, and this is an excuse for some excruciating fashion disasters as well as well-placed cameos for various contemporary designers. There is fun to be had in all this. There are even a couple of really fine gags, but they are so strung out that it is a long time between drinks. Basically, they have trouble linking the set pieces in an engaging way, but that could also be said of most Hollywood comedies. Comedy is hard, perhaps the hardest of all. Still, that is the risk. Really there is enough good material here for a fine TV episode. In a way, there is almost a sense of loss or regret when the material doesn’t quite live up to its promise. After all, one would have loved to say that this is absolutely fabulous, darling.
Welcome To Shelbyville director, Kim A. Snyder, returns with Newtown (which screens this evening at The Melbourne International Film Festival), an emotional look at the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, which saw 20 children and 6 adults killed.
Gun crime, particularly in America, constantly dominates the media. It’s gotten to the point where it can feel like literally every day there’s another report. The documentary, Newtown, seems quite timely now. Not that it’s overtly political, though it certainly doesn’t sit in the pro-firearms corner. No, Newtown shines a spotlight on the residents of the titular town in Connecticut. A town which holds the not-too-auspicious honour of being the site of the largest shooting at a high school or grade school in the US, when Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six staff members at The Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Director, Kim S. Snyder, offers no narration herself; instead, she leaves it to the townspeople, through talking heads, photos, videos, and even text messages, to recount the events of the tragic day, and the steps that they’ve all taken to try and move on. Newtown is a succinct but shattering film that never feels like it’s bathing in the tragedy; it’s not made for the prolific rubberneckers. Snyder gives her subjects the dignity that they deserve.
In particular, we meet three parents who lost their children that day. Snyder paints a sombre and distressing portrait of mourning as the three adults share their grief. What becomes apparent as they try to move on, is the fear of time passing. The film captures a potent moment as one father confesses that he doesn’t like growing old as each new day takes him one day further from the life that he had with his son. The aforementioned Lanza is never mentioned by name, and with good reason. Four years on, his shadow hangs long and heavy over the town, and this story is about the children, their parents, and their neighbours. The people that matter.
Newtown plays at The Melbourne International Film Festival on August 1. To buy tickets to Newtown, head to the official website.