Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Film: 'Hampstead'

I don't think I've seen the wonderful Diane Keaton in a non-American film before. Here she is starring as an American widow in a British venture, and living in this chic part of north London where she works in a charity shop, and getting involved with gruff Brendan Gleeson, a 'homeless' itinerant who has resided in a shack on the edge of Hampstead Heath for 17 years. It's a shame, then, that I think she wasn't the right person for the part.  

Based on a true story - which every second film now seems to be - I don't know if that was why Keaton's character had to be American, though that needn't get in the way. Her personality seems not to fit here, which isn't helped by the emotional contact between her and Gleason being, to me at least, nowhere near convincing.

She only notices his home, which is mostly concealed by surrounding foliage, when she tries out a pair of binoculars from the upper reaches of her spacious apartment (which these days in that exclusive part of London would surely cost upwards of £1 million!) She learns that there's an attempt by developers to force the shack dweller to move away so, she herself not keen on the planned development anyway, gets to meet him and support his fight to stay. 

She has her own legal affairs that need untangling and the solicitor she hires (played as rather odiously friendly towards her) expects to have his hopes fulfilled when she doesn't reject his advances outright. This also struck me as a discordant note, especially when she was already starting to get involved with the Gleeson character. 

I used to know the Hampstead area a little thirty or so years ago. at which time there was still a hint of the bohemian life around there. There's no trace of that left now and nothing of such is shown in this film. I think Hampstead has pretty well all gone lah-di-dah now.

This is an amiable enough film though it never really takes off. The story is moderately interesting but hardly gripping.
The film only properly perked up for me in the outdoor scenes when I vaguely remembered the shopping streets - as well as in nearby Highgate cemetery (containing the grave of Karl Marx). But the indoor scenes between the two main characters were fairly routine depicting their burgeoning liking for each other, in respect of which I remained unconvinced.

This is director Joel Hopkins' fifth feature and the first of his that I have seen. There may be some promise within this film but I think he's going to need stronger material than this to test him properly (A thousand-fold improvement on yesterday's misfire anyway!).....................5.5.



11 comments:

  1. I saw her on Graham Norton touting this film, and even in the clip she seemed like she shouldn't be there. which i found odd because generally I love me some Keaton. For that reason alone, i may see this.

    Oh, and this ...
    "I think Hampstead has pretty well all gone lah-di-dah now."

    Is that you going a Little Keaton on us?

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    1. Actually, Bob, that use of 'lah-di-dah' was completely unintentional, though I know why you're mentioning it. Maybe it had been a subconscious association. Even if it seems too much of a coincidence to be believed, at the time I was actually thinking of Alan Bennett - though you may think otherwise. :-)

      Apart from Keaton seeming like a fish out of water in a London setting I think, more seriously, that off-screen she and Gleeson don't care much for each other - and it shows on-screen, their interchange of emotional words sounding false and forced. I've been trying to think who might have handled it better, and I'm coming up with Julianne Moore.
      But all in all, there's no way I could describe this as a 'poor' film.



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    2. Julianne Moore. Yeah, she'd have been a good choice! I love her.

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    3. She never disappoints, Bob, and though she's American (of course!), she seems to have an affinity with England, and appears many times with an English accent which she can do effortlessly. And she might have got on fine with Mr Gleeson too, who I think was well cast in this. too.

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  2. I went to see it and quite enjoyed it as a stress free bit of entertainment. I thought Gleeson was good. I think Emily should have been English as the film was so very British in Hampstead but other than that Keaton was good. I wrotecabout it on my blog last week. I saw Gleeson again today in Alone in Berlin. I will write about it later.

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    1. It is on my blog on 26 June. But don't feel you have got to read it. I just thought it might be difficult for you to find if you did wantvto read it.

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    2. I've taken a look at your blog, Rachel (don't know what took me so long) and liked what I see. You're now on my 'Blog Roll'!

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  3. Lately, Keaton has made some very bad choices, so I would have definitely stayed away from this. But I'm so tired of movies based on comic books and movies based on people from other planets, that I think I will see this just to escape into "lah-de-dah" Hampstead.

    I saw "Alone In Berlin" as Rachel did. Gripping and Daniel Bruhl is awesome. A very timely movie in the Age of Trump. Resist!

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    1. It's certainly escapist stuff, Paul i.e here escaping from fantasy worlds and back into hard reality, though I have doubts about the plausibility of some aspects of Hampstead life as depicted in this. However, it's not entirely unenjoyable.

      We're getting trailers of 'Alone in Berlin' and, oh dear, yet ANOTHER World War 2 drama complete with Nazis (and in English with faux-German accents). I'll be seeing it without doubt but the number of times this subject is flogged (admittedly it's a vast subject) I've long since got a-weary of the whole topic - and with 'Dunkirk' just round the corner as well. Reviews here of 'Berlin' have been largely favourable but unexceptional. I'll just go to get it over with.

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  4. I last saw Gleeson in the wonderful Calvary
    He does a good turn as a slightly mad and angry catholic

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    1. I agree - 'Calvary' was a terrific film (and I never guessed who the mystery threat came from). Gleeson was superb in that, and in such a thankless role too. He works much the same magic in 'Hampstead' though his supporting - or co-starring - cast isn't quite as believable as he is.

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