The British, Abroad and at Home

PAUL ***

Be warned: Paul was not written and directed by Edgar Wright, who did co-write (with Simon Pegg) Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two modern parodic classics. Instead, Paul was penned by Pegg and Nick Frost (his co-star in the earlier films) and directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad), and the results, though by no means unenjoyable, are different to the feel of “an Edgar Wright film”. Paul is not nearly as funny as the funny, nor as blatantly parodic; instead, it is sweeter, and much closer to a “traditional” film narrative, with a story that gently references science fiction films rather than being one huge parody of such films. Pegg and Frost are surprisingly low-key this time around (and indeed, in the wacky stakes they’re deliriously upstaged by Joe Lo Truglio and Bill Hader as a couple of extremely dopey-but-lovable FBI agents), and Kristen Wiig manages to make as much as possible out of an extremely broad character. Jason Bateman takes the honours, as a Man In Black type in pursuit of the titular Paul – an alien hoping to go home – but how can Jane Lynch be in a film and not get a laugh (especially from a full audience, as I saw the film with)? Maybe people think that just being Jane Lynch is funny and are forgetting to supply her with any material. A gentle night out rather than a laugh riot, Paul feels like there may be a lot more adult-flavoured goodness still left in earlier drafts or on the cutting-room floor.


Rowan  Joffe’s new version of Graham Greene’s 1938 thriller is a grim piece of work that doesn’t seem to have much more reason to exist than to simply entertain; however, as a lurid melodrama, it can certainly lay claim to being very entertaining. In place of Richard Attenborough in the 1947 film version, Sim Riley (Ian Curtis from Control) plays the extremely reprehensible Pinky Brown, young sociopathic thug-on-the-rise, with great intelligence – by making it clear that Pinky himself doesn’t have great intelligence: his conceptual limitations allow him to act without feeling. He is a true, heartless monster – perhaps a demon (or a true pschopath). The Brighton locations are photographed extremely well – with tremendously dour overcast skies, sleety rain, macs and grey water – and Joffe, in his feature debut, shows he can deliver a set-piece – particularly when one of Pinky’s major acts is placed against the Brighton rockers/mods riot of 1964. This updating of the source material is otherwise neither particularly inspired nor detrimental; Brighton, and Britain, feel timeless when coupled with the very Englishness of Graham’s over-the-top, but gripping story. Helen Mirren lends fine support, as does an excellent Andrea Riseborough (supposedly filling in for Carey Mulligan, who left to do Wall Street 2).

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