Saturday, March 24, 2007
Amazing Grace: sadly, more like "meh"
Yesterday, Daughter and I attended the first showing of the new film starring Ioan Gruffudd, Amazing Grace. I didn't read the reviews, but I did see the headlines, and the general consensus was "boring." However, since film reviewers and I often don't see eye-to-eye, I was not dissuaded.
I didn't find the movie boring, but it wasn't great, either. For one thing, flashbacks are tricky things, whether in a book or a movie. They can really throw the pace off. However, in a book, you have the change in verb tense to alert you to the beginning and end of a flashback. In a movie, not so much. Once you've gone back in time, you can't be sure if the next scene is past or present, unless it's really obvious (different hair color or major fashion switch, say). In the case of Amazing Grace, the director opted for titles.
I would have preferred the director opted for chronological order. Why not do that? I suspect it's an attempt to create sympathy for the character. See how he's suffering now? Let's go back and find out how he got that way.
If you're going to do that, I wish he'd shown us what prompted William Wilberforce to tackle the issue of slave trading in the first place. There's a mention that he was taught by the former slave ship captain who wrote the hymn, Amazing Grace, which, if I can go by what I've googled (quickly) was not, in fact, the case. He did meet that man, who's a character during the movie, but it seems more likely that Wilberforce was set upon his path by a conversion to Evangelical Christianity, which is totally down-played in this film. I know it's a movie, but now I'm thinking they played that relationship up as a means of getting people into the theater.
I was also confused about whether folks were speaking in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. I think they sort of combined the two.
There's an early scene in the Pump Room at Bath that my daughter and I enjoyed very much, in no small part because it was just like something from a historical romance novel.
Also, Sir Michael Gambon has more acting chops in his little pinky than many an actor today. He's always a pleasure to watch.
True story: when my husband and I were in London, we went to see a play set in Restoration England, featuring Michael Gambon. During intermission, my husband went outside for a breath of fresh air and there, in his costume, was Michael Gambon having a smoke.
However, it seemed they played fast and loose with his character's part in the story; his character was dead when Wilberforce's bill finally passed, but he's certainly alive in the film.
Overall, I thought the film was okay.
Will I buy the DVD? Probably not.