Mr. Turner

February 1, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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Is it fair of me to review a film I kept falling asleep in? Well, I shall cogitate on it.  But, at 2 1/2 hours, I feel as though I have already spent enough time with J.M.W. Turner and scarcely need to spend too much longer. I have been a great fan of director Mike Leigh (“Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Vera Drake”) and, in fact, his first full length film, “Secrets & Lies,” was one of my favorite films the year it came out. I loved that film for the way he was able to capture such natural dialogue and draw incredibly real and vulnerable performances from his actors. Here, perhaps it is too natural. The audience is subjected to seemingly endless scenes of Victorian Brits being stodgy and mumbling a lot. For this part, Turner (played effectively by Timothy Spall) is an utter bore. He grunts and wheezes and apparently agonizes but does so so stoically it’s hard to tell. He is insufferable to most who love him. All of this might have been offset if we had learned something about his evolution as a painter. But there is little of that here. In fact, there is little here in terms of a story at all. We go from unrelated scene to unrelated scene, from parlor to parlor, and are forced to sit through gatherings that are as insufferable for us as they are for the attendees, expect that we can’t quite tell who anyone is or why we should care. The film just rambles on until it doesn’t. Leigh does manage to make a beautiful film, with many many scenes looking like they might have been a Turner painting (his point, I am sure). The film is very beautiful in parts. And, as always, he draws strong performances from all of his actors. I was most especially taken by Dorothy Atkinson, who plays his housekeeper (?- it’s never really explained). She really became that sad and dedicated woman so completely. However, that is not enough. Fine acting and sunsets do not justify 150 minutes.

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