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.
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.
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.