Jeremy Northam Night no. 3: what do you fancy?

26 Jul

Last Friday’s Jeremy Northam Night had us all basking in the warm glow of a nice glass of Tokay, as we watched Dean Spanley. It’s one of those movies you can never tire of watching, and it surprises you with something new every time. Even now, earnest discussions are taking place about Young Fisk and the laundry maid…

This week, we’re choosing between Possession, The Misadventures of Margaret, and Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius. Here’s a little information about each to help you make up your mind…

Possession (dir. Neil LaBute, 2002) is adapted from AS Byatt’s best selling, Man Booker prize-winning, novel. It follows two couples: a pair of academics from the present who stumble upon a possible connection between the other couple, two Victorian poets. Jeremy and Jennifer Ehle are wonderfully passionate and charismatic as the Victorians, a frosty Gwyneth Paltrow and a slightly miscast Aaron Eckhart are the modern academics. Paltrow and Eckhart follow the clues and uncover the details of the Victorians’ secret affair, whilst embarking upon a relationship of their own. Of necessity, Byatt’s dense and elaborate novel is simplified for the screen, but this is not to the movie’s detriment, on the whole.

Jeremy as poet Randolph Henry Ash in Possession

Here’s what director Neil LaBute had to say about Jeremy’s performance in Possession:

Jeremy made such an excellent Ash I just felt that they (JN and Jennifer Ehle)…just conveyed the weight of the times, the Victorian era and I believed them as writers and as people who were challenged by their lives and the choices that they made.
He (Jeremy) is one of those actors who has such a melodious voice. He reminds me of Richard Burton in a number of ways. He’s such a fine actor and a deeply moving one. Particularly in this part he is so warm and great.
He was really adept at creating the spirit of this guy without even having the other actor to work with. He was just very moving. When we went to shoot this (the final scene when Ash meets the daughter) I think it was a big culmination for his character as well and he really showed the weight of what had happened from the first time he met Christabel until this moment with the way he dealt with this little girl.

JennyTheNipper recently reviewed Possession for us, if you’d like to know more: Jenny’s Possession review.

The Misadventures of Margaret (dir. Brian Skeet, 1998) is another literary adaptation. Based on Cathleen Schine’s novel, Rameau’s Niece, it tells the story of novelist Margaret Nathan (Parker Posey). Margaret is married to Englishman Edward (Jeremy), who is a university lecturer and likes to quote poetry. Margaret has written one successful book, and while attempting to write a steamy follow up, she suspects Edward of having an affair and contemplates several of her own. She ricochets between her wild, erotic fantasies and the frustrations of her real life.

Jeremy Northam and Parker Posey

The director is obviously attempting to capture some of the style and sophistication of 40’s and 50’s movies, with Margaret looking and sounding like an even more brittle Katherine Hepburn (but sadly lacking her charm). There are classic movie posters plastering the walls of the Nathans’ apartment, and the movie is accompanied by the retro music of St Etienne. Somehow, it doesn’t quite all work, though there are some scenes where the wit and quirky humour hit the spot. There are some seriously mis-judged scenes, but there is still much to be enjoyed (especially if you own the German, uncut version…). Jeremy is utterly charming as Edward Nathan, though you may be left wondering what he sees in Margaret. If you are unable to source a copy of the DVD, the entire movie is on YouTube.

And now we come to Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius (dir. Rowdy Herrington, 2004) and we really are firmly into ‘I’m only watching this because Jeremy is in it’ territory. The movie tells the life story of revered golfing legend Bobby Jones (a bland Jim Caviezel). Jones overcomes many obstacles in his struggles to reach the top of his game, but never relinquishes his amateur status (unlike money-grabbing peer and rival Walter Hagen, who is played with relish by Jeremy) and retires at only 28 years old. Jones later founded the Augusta National, and sadly succumbed to syringomyelia.

The movie is made with too much reverence, and Caviezel plays Jones with too little charm (whilst sporting one of the most atrocious wigs seen in film). But, but, but Jeremy’s performance as Hagen, golf’s bad boy, is a delight! Think Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk, plus a golf club. Hagen is the movie’s one redeeming feature, I’m afraid. And I quite like golf!

Scott Tobias of The AV Club says:

As the film closes with a grueling succession of golf highlights, with no one tournament distinguished from the next, Jones’ unimpeachable decency does nothing to raise the dramatic stakes. To judge from Stroke Of Genius, he was great husband, a great sportsman, a great champion, and a spectacular bore.

I’m aware that I haven’t really recommended Bobby Jones, but there will be some of you who will enjoy it, and if you haven’t seen it before, it’s worth catching Jeremy’s performance.

But don’t take my word for it, live dangerously, try something new and make up your own mind! Here’s where to vote:  Vote for Jeremy Northam Night’s movie for this week.

by henrysmummy2003

17 Responses to “Jeremy Northam Night no. 3: what do you fancy?”

  1. Rosamond Tifft July 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    Wonderful research as usual. Since you were kind enough to say I could vote, I’m voting for POSSESSION. I paid good money to see it and Jeremy and Jennifer Ehle were worth every penny of it. They were fantastic and just swept one up and carried one off. He has such class as an actor. It’s beginning to be a joy to get to know him. A REAL JOY. Hope my Dirk forgives me this mild wandering into another province. Have great days. And by the by, how was that play. I might have missed comment on that. Very best, me

    • henrysmummy2003 July 26, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

      Thanks Roe, vote duly noted! The play was very enjoyable, though I don’t think the performers were at their best on Saturday night. I’m going to try to see it again which will help me to absorb and understand it a little better.

  2. Rosamond Tifft July 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    PS I have to say that it took every bit we had to endure the Paltrow Ekhart scenes in POSSESSION and just kept waiting to get back to Jeremy and Jennifer. He knows, really knows, how to inhabit a character or grow the character from within as Dirk Bogarde did and then make or let it live. He amazes me each time I see him. I forget he is going to be every bit as good as he is and was before. He has the goods.

  3. Tango July 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm #

    I finally read Possession while on holidays late last year. I finally finished it onthe last day of my holidays. I put the book down and walked to a little gift store where therewas a “Maud bear” – the day felt strange and life changing. It was- I received a message on my phone that I’d been made redundant after 22 years. I haven’t watched the movie since and I probably need to!!
    Having said that Jeremy is amazing in the movie – just brilliant and he fits his character better than anyone else in the film. After reading the book I think Eckhart was totally wrong – I think Roland should have been someone like David Tennant (I think that about a lot of characters though) – and Maud -jury’s still out on the perfect Maud! (I also like Margaret- a lot and I’m not sure why lol).

    • henrysmummy2003 July 26, 2010 at 11:01 pm #

      Oh my goodness, Possession holds a few ghosts for you then…I am sorry and hope I haven’t upset you by including it here, Tania. David Tennant would have made an excellent Roland (or Toby Stephens who was underused as Fergus).

  4. Tango July 26, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    No, no ghosts – just the opposite!! Set them free! I still do a bit of independent stuff for my old work and I’m going in to see the new boss today (they’ve lost two since they got rid of us).

    Toby Stephens would have been great! But I could just see David Tennant in his own glasses with his hair messed up (there is a picture of him from Glastonbury like this) as Roland!! I’m glad we don’t seem to really feel the need to bring an American to be part of a British/Australian movie any more!

    • henrysmummy2003 July 26, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

      Oh that’s good!
      Rumpled DT…yes, I could handle that! He would have made a much more believable academic.

      • Tango July 27, 2010 at 12:24 am #

        Have you see Einstein and Eddington??

  5. LauraP July 27, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    Bobby Jones, eh? Interesting choice. Although the movie’s not great, I love Jeremy in it. Every so often I have to have a dose of the wicked “Sir” Walter Hagen! Oh, that sly twinkle in his eyes… And he gets all the best lines in the movie, too. If I need a smile, I go to Jeremy’s Walter Hagen!

  6. Tango July 27, 2010 at 12:23 am #

    Haven’t got to that one yet!! Must check it out!!

  7. henrysmummy2003 July 27, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    I didn’t see Einstein and Eddington…not sure why, actually, must try to catch up with that one.
    Yes, Bobby Jones, sorry, I was a little unkind and Laura is quite right to point out how wonderful Jeremy is in it. Skip the early years and watch the Hagen scenes, then skip much of the rest (apart from the lovely shots of St Andrews, near which I will be holidaying very shortly!).

    • LauraP July 30, 2010 at 12:44 am #

      No, you weren’t unkind about Bobby Jones, Gill. It has a lot of problems, first and foremost of which is that the filmmakers were way too in love with their subject.

      Thank goodness for scene selections and fast forwarding on DVDs! You described exactly how I watch BJSOG. All I need is Jeremy doing his deliciously naughty Walter Hagen!

  8. Jennythenipper July 27, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    Well no surprises here. I voted for Possession! Misadventures is frankly awful. It’s especially painful to me because I’m always carping on about JN should do more comedy and then this just isn’t very good. Weak script and Parker Posey is crazy and annoying rather than funny. Even with Jeremy Northam and large swaths of dialog borrowed from The Awful Truth, this movie still pretty much sucks. Although JN looking all bed-tousled in the first five minutes may be worth at least watching it on Youtube!

    Bobby Jones holds a bigger place in my heart than it probably deserves because it is one of only two JN films which I saw in the theater (the other being Gosford Park). JN is really wonderful in it, but his parts are too few and far between. I wished it would be Walter Hagen: Strokes of Hotness, but alas, no.

    I watched Jane Eyre 06 again yestereday. Le Sigh. Toby is so, so, so awesome, too. I will need to rewatch Possession again because it is the only other Toby Stephens movie I own!

    • henrysmummy2003 July 27, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

      I probably ought to review ‘Misadventures’ properly sometime…but, like you, I can’t take Posey in this movie. I get the impression we are supposed to root for her a lot more than her poor, put upon, gorgeous husband…but actually I end up thinking he’s better off out of it! Bed tousled, yes, yes, yes, and the nudie scene, and the reconciliation scene…but when Jeremy’s not on camera…bleh!!
      I saw Toby in britches in Danton’s Death at the weekend (and boots in one scene)…very Rochester!
      Walter Hagen, Strokes of Hotness: that’s hysterical!

  9. Jennythenipper July 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    “Toby Stephens would have been great! But I could just see David Tennant in his own glasses with his hair messed up (there is a picture of him from Glastonbury like this) as Roland!! I’m glad we don’t seem to really feel the need to bring an American to be part of a British/Australian movie any more!”

    I could see Toby as Roland (though he’s great as Fergus as well!) I’d love to have seen Tennant as Roland. I’ve been rewatching my old Doctor Whos lately and feeling a bit misty for him…

  10. Martina July 28, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    Thanks Gill for your summary of this week`s poll. Please sign me up for POSSESSION, must I say more? I agree, TMoM is a little weird movie, but there are some entertaining and witty sequences, e.g. this elevator scene (plus directly before and after that) and the scene when Edward meets Martin in his flat and the following conversation or better said Edwards monolog. And as always (also in Bobby Jones) Jeremy Northam gives his very best! I like his seriousness in approaching to a part, whatever it is, because it shows his responsibility and endeavour for the audience, imho. So many actors are their own little cosmos, Jeremy Northam always want`s to include the viewers in history, literatur, … or mere human existence and togetherness.

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