Monday, November 07, 2022

TV: A romanceless romance -- who's policeman is it anyway?

MY POLICEMAN arrived on AMAZON at the end of last week and, after months of hype, turned out to be a crushing disappointment.  Michael Grandage's second film directorial effort makes a strong case for him to remain in the theatre.  Oh, he does what has long been done to plays turned into films -- he 'opens' it up by including exteriors.  He does everything, in fact, that you're supposed to do -- thereby explaining the film's paint-by-number quality.  He just has no inspiration or vision to make the project come alive.

The film is based on  Bethan Roberts' novel MY POLICEMAN which someone forgot to inform Grandage is a romantic novel.  There's nothing romantic about the film which opens not with the developing romance but with a man (we'll later learn who and his connection to the man and the woman in the opening scenes) who is sick.  It's as though Grandage is telegraphing that he's always felt DR ZHIVAGO would be a more romantic film had it opened with Julie Christie enduring a case of whooping cough. 

It doesn't help that the two performers, Gina McKee and Linus Roache, playing the adults in the romance -- playing them much later in life -- come across charisma challenged.  

Is that Grandage's fault?  Possibly.  He seems to think he's directing PRICK UP YOUR EARS. Again, this is supposed to be a romantic film.  Tom marries Marion in the 1950s and has feelings for her but he also loves Patrick.  Like Mary Macgregor back in 1976, Tom is "Torn Between Two Lovers." 

And that does imply tension so it's rather surprising that MY POLICEMAN has none.  

Does Grandage care about the characters?

Better question, does he understand the story?

MY POLICEMAN is instantly forgettable and that includes the only reason the film got made: Harry Styles.

Back in May, British singer-songwriter Harry Styles released one of the best albums of the year: HARRY'S HOUSE.  The lead single, "As It Was," went number one in ten countries -- including the UK and the US. Follow ups "Late Night Talking," went number two in the UK and number 3 in the US while "Music For A Sushi Restaurant" also went top ten in both countries.  At a time when few artists are moving albums, HARRY'S HOUSE is Harry's third platinum album since he started his solo career in 2017.  Prior to that, from 2011 to 2015, he was part of the boy band One Direction which notched up five platinum albums in the US.  

So he's what they call "a big deal."

Maybe it's the 'he' causing the problem?

Few musicians can act.  Even fewer can act well enough and project enough charisma to become a film star.

Elvis became a film star.  Prince became a film star.  

That's really it for the boys during the rock era.  A lot of them tried and tried and tried some more: Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Roger Daltrey, David Bowie, Sting, Michael Jackson . . . The list of failures is endless.  

Many women failed as well -- including Connie Francis.  

Two women proved it was possible: Cher and Diana Ross.  Both women were nominated for Academy Awards -- and Cher won.  They had talent and charisma that gripped you on the big screen.


He comes across small.  Tiny.  Micro.

Let's deal with the acting.  Where is it?

He recites dialogue.  We recently saw a pretty boy actor who's aged out of his audience go up against a young comedian in a reading for a film role.  Pretty boy was heartbreakingly sensitive -- all too sensitive for this world.  He interpreted the role that way.  The young comedian got the part.  His audition was all over the place -- including some of the worst choices ever made -- but you couldn't take your eyes off him.  He was magnetic.  As the director said after the readings, he was going with the comic because "I'm not making a TV movie" and because "he brought things I can work with."

Harry brings nothing.

He recites the words.  And indicates that he's very sensitive and very caring.

Someone thought it was a performance.

We feel for Harry.  He was betrayed by the director of DON'T WORRY DARLING who did not work with him at all.  Matthew Broderick came off more threatening in the remake of THE STEFORD WIVES than Harry manages to in Olivia Wilde's bad rip-off of the Ira Levin novel.  You'd think that if you were putting out for the director, they'd take a little more care to protect you with coverage and editing.  Wilde provided Harry with no protection.

Now comes a second soulless performance and, sorry, you don't get many shots.  That's two times a movie has depended upon Harry and two times he has failed to deliver.

That's failed to deliver as an actor and, more importantly, failed to deliver as a star.  Gary Cooper, as Pauline Kael, liked to note, wasn't a great actor but he did have tremendous star power.  Harry doesn't have either.  Maybe, like Justin Guarini, he might find success in the theatre but barring a real effort (intensive work with an acting teacher and an acting coach), he's probably 'achieved' as much as he's ever going to in film.

If that seems harsh, too bad.  Diana Ross and Cher had to fight for film careers.  And they worked their rear ends off when they finally got parts.  Like far too many male musicians before him, Harry appeared to think that all he had to do was show up (also sleep with a director) and film stardom was his.  As both DON'T WORRY DARLING and MY POLICEMAN have proven, Harry is no star.

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