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Friday, 11 December 2015

Julianne Moore (sort of)

As a footnote to last week's polemic about dismal foreign language movies, let me add "Gente de Bien" (2014) to the collection. This Colombian film follows the fortunes of a young boy who is dumped on his impoverished carpenter father together with his faithful mutt. (It's not clear where the mother has gone walkies). They are invited to spend Christmas at the country home of a well-meaning rich client, but Dad feels like a sore thumb and goes back to the city with the dog (who has been crapping everywhere). The boy stays on and his hostess does everything within her power to make him feel at home, but the sharp-tongued youngsters in the family do their best to make him miserable. So he asks to return to the city too and arrives just in time to see his beloved doggy put down for inoperable cancer. Merry Christmas one and all!

Back to the subject at hand, I decided to touch briefly on Ms. Moore's sparkling and long-lasting career, since she featured in two movies that I watched this week. Now 55 but still looking good and still managing to be cast in a variety of flicks, she has been making films since the early 90s, starting with TVMs and small roles. She first came on my radar for her contribution to the Robert Altman ensemble in "Short Cuts" (1993) where she flitted about her home 'bottomless' and proved to the world that she is a natural redhead.

Since then she has appeared in countless major and indie movies and always makes a strong impression. Her filmography includes such gems as "Boogie Nights", "The Big Lebowski", "Far from Heaven", "The Kids are Alright", and "Map to the Stars". She finally won a long- overdue Oscar for 2014's "Still Alice". I caught her this week in two films where, if the truth be known, she wasn't given a lot to do and took second place to at least one of her co-stars. The first of these was "Non-Stop" (2014) where her role was secondary to geriatric action man Liam Neeson, playing an air marshal trying to uncover a psycho killer on a long-distance flight. As long as one didn't dwell on the plot holes, this was watchable pap, but Moore was purely 'arm-candy'. (This was one of two films aired this week starring Neeson, and I can barely recall the contrived plot of "Taken 3", which somebody probably thought was a good idea after the success of the first two in the series)

Moore had far more to do in "What Maisie Knew" (2012), a modern take on the 100 plus-year old Henry James novel. In this film she plays a would-be pop star, but not one that has had much success in her singing career. She and her husband (Steve Coogan -- an annoying actor to say the least) spend most of their time together arguing and have little time over for their adorable daughter Maisie -- a sympathetic and totally un-childstar-like turn from young Onata Aprile. Divorce is on the cards and he bunks off with their former nanny (Joanna Vanderham). It's not that they don't 'love' little Maisie, but they are both too self-obsessed with their own careers. Because Moore is often on the road with her group, the judge awards joint custody, and Maisie is bounced between the two households. Moore has now married a young and handsome bartender (Alexander Skarsgard) and relies on him more and more to look after the child. On one occasion when she is contracted to go touring at short notice, she drops the child at the bar on a night when Skarsgard isn't even on duty -- that's how good a mother she is!

Coogan, meanwhile has married the nanny, who also is largely responsible for looking after his daughter just as she did when in the couple's employ. It becomes increasingly obvious that their marriage is also on the rocks. The problem is that Maisie loves her mother and father, but she also loves Skarsgard and Vanderham who give her the time and affection she craves. They too find that they are attracted to each other, and the film ends with their looking after Maisie together at a remote beach-house, while Moore is off pursuing her lukewarm career and Coogan has returned to London. However, it is clear that this happy but unlikely family unit is destined to be short-lived when Maisie's real parents pursue their 'rights'. 

As usual Moore gives an impassioned and impressive performance as Maisie's neglectful mother, but the movie belongs to young Aprile, whose performance is heart-rending.
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