Friday Night Cinema: Lemony Snicket

Took the nephew to see Lemony Snickett tonight. Knew nothing about the books before going in, although have seen the striking covers dotted around WHSmiths and Waterstones whenever I'm in. There seem to be about eight hundred different titles, but I'm told the film condenses the first three into one story.

Usually that would really annoy me - if you're going to film a book film it properly (like that bloke who filmed some fantasy trilogy in New Zealand - can't remember his name now) - but in this case I'm rather glad as the film seems to tell the same story about three times. The set up is that three children are orphaned and go to stay with their evil cousin Count Olaf (Jim Carrey) only for him to continually try and bump them off so he can get his hands on their inheritance. Following a series of events (sometimes unfortunate) they end up leaving his mansion and moving between foster homes, before the Count catches up with them and they have to move on again.

I loved the concept once I got it - nicely meanish, a real feel of the great Roald Dahl about it in its meanness and its positive joy in revelling in the fact life can really be very difficult indeed - but did find the repetitive nature of the format was beginning to pall by the time the children reached their third home. Fortunately the film doesn't rely solely on the story and there's plenty else to be entertained by, principally the beautiful designs and Carrey's performance.

The film looks like it's taken straight out of some cross between a child's fairystory book and something from a steampunk graphic novel, a weird world in which there are cars which have two-reel tape decks and rickety houses are built onto the sides of cliffs. There's always something interesting to look at or notice, while the film's palate always remains muted and cold (up until the end), both reinforcing the idea this is all just an imaginative painting and also reflecting the narrator's (Jude Law, appearing in what feels like his hundredth film of the year) opening spiel about how the characters' lives really are pretty awful. It's a really nice look, reminding me somewhat a richer version of Peter Pan's design from early in the year and far more visually interesting than the Harry Potters, which, especially for the first two installments, have been all gloss and no heart.

Carrey is good too - like I say, I don't know the books so have no idea if his interpretation of the villain is as he is on paper, but from the film at least he fits it like a glove. The character allows him to get away with some frightful mugging and posing, obviously having fun with the character. It's like Ace Ventura, only good. His disguises are highly amusing too, and it would have been fun to see more of them. The kids were good too - their performances were restrained but, given the artificial nature of the world they found themselves in, this fitted in perfectly.

So yes, very much enjoyed it, but was ultimately glad it didn't go on any longer than it did. Nephew seemed to like it too which is always a good thing as obviously he's the target audience, and there wasn't much restlessness from the audience, aside from some typical chavs sitting in the back row, who spent the first twenty minutes informing the whole cinema their opinions on Jim Carrey. (They also seemed mightily pleased with themselves when they recognised him in one of his disguises - "Look, that's him!" one excitedly exclaimed, pleased with their cleverness for seeing through the act. "Oh yeah, look it is," said another, evidently impressed with her colleague's powers of observation, before beginning another general discussion about the man). 8/10

(On a completely different topic, and in the whatever-goes spirit these blogs are for, just watched Jonathan Ross' interview with Scorsese. Showed some clips of The Aviator which looked decent and Scorsese was his usual ebullient self, laughing heartily even when Ross pointed out he had large eyebrows and compared him to that eagle character from the Muppets. Scorsese is a joy to listen to, and I hope The Aviator does well for him - I can see the Academy giving him his overdue Oscar for it. Never thought he'd get it for Gangs given the Weinstein issue, but this subject is right up their street and they're nothing if not a sentimental old bunch).

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:47:35

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