4 hours ago
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
Film: 'COMMON PEOPLE'
Six stories interwoven into a sort of anthology, sometimes connecting, more often not. The sort of idea which Robert Altman was master at putting on screen.
Set on one of London's public commons (either Clapham Common or Hampstead Heath, I'm not sure) it follows a day's progress in the lives of a disparate set of characters which includes:-
An advanced-elderly, lovey-dovey couple getting around on their mobility scooters, a guy out with his dog which has a mind of its own (and which doesn't even understand basic English, for heaven's sake!), a widower with his sweet-as-syrup five-year old daughter ("I miss Mommy." "So do I, Princess."), an ex-soldier, now homeless and bench-sleeping after serving in Afghanistan, a young, heavily-pregnant, single mother-to-be (the last two being in the picture above), a middle-aged male fitness fanatic who is joined by acquaintances who take delight in ribbing him, and a posse of a dozen slappable, pre-teen adventure scouts out on a 'twitching' expedition under the watchful eye of their mature Canadian (so explaining the accent) troop leader, and accompanied by a second adult who is conversant with matters avian.
The film cuts from story to story with occasional overlaps. It could have been interesting. It wasn't. It was intensely irritating.
First, the script - unrealistic and improbable, more detached from real life than banal, but nevertheless, hopelessly unsatisfactory. - and delivered by such an inexpert set of actors seeming to attempt to act the required emotions as per a chart. There was little connection between the words and their delivery. 'Unconvincing' is not really the right word. 'False' is closer.
Next the situations - largely dull and inert, apart from incidents involving (separately) the two characters in the picture. Would you believe that the young lady actually gives birth on a bench? - and surrounded by a group of scouts all going "Yuk" and various other expressions of disgust - until the actual appearance of the child (no umbilical cord, apparently) when the distasteful vocalisations from her young audience give way, at the flick of a switch, to applause and admiration. And so they ought to clap her as it must be the cleanest birth in history (no sign of blood and other gunge) - a nativity of which, I should imagine, even the Virgin Mary herself would have been sorely envious.
If you're at any time not sure how to react to the on-screen antics, worry not! Mood music on the soundtrack will give you a helpful nudge.
Early in the film, when the scouts are on their quest to espy feathered creatures, they notice discarded condoms, (having clearly ventured into a gay cruising area) which they take to their leader on the end of sticks. Suitably embarrassed, he brushes off their finds ("Balloons for grown-ups") when (Goodness me, and pat on cue) enters into their zone a campy, lone guy, complete with eyes a-rolling (Get the picture?) who hails the tubby ornithologist as someone he's 'encountered' before (nervous clearing of throat), much to the added embarrassment and surprise of the troop leader.
The most interesting of the motley characters is the former soldier - and not, I ought to stress, because he's the only one with a beard. It might be significant that, practically mute, he has the advantage of uttering hardly a word of the dire script, even when he's being being talked to - especially by chatty preggers lady who's incapable of keeping her trap shut.
This is co-director (and writer) Stewart Alexander's first film in that role (along with one Kerry Skinner). All I can say is that now "the only way is up!"
I was fidgeting and looking at my watch within ten minutes of the start of this sorry 90-minute offering. Too long by approx 75 mins, I very unusually left the cinema with a quarter of an hour still to go.
To rub salt in the wound, this film was playing at the same cinema, for today only, as another new film I dearly wanted to see, 'Cheap Thrills', was also showing only for this single day. I'd chosen the wrong one and I'm still smarting at it even now.
I don't know if this will turn out to be my single 'worst film of the year' (there are already other contenders) but there's no doubt that, so far, it is the most disappointing. Fuming yet, I award it a...................2/10.