16 August 2014

Keep the Aspidistra Flying (A Merry War)

Keep the Aspidistra Flying (a.k.a. A Merry War) 1997
  • Director: Robert Bierman
  • Based on the novel by George Orwell
  • Cast: Richard E. Grant, Helena Bonham Carter,  Julian Wadham, Jim Carter, Harriet Walter, Leslie Vickarage, Barbara Leigh Hunt, Liz Smith
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Richard E. Grant  Dracula, Twelfth Night (1996), Wah-Wah, Me Myself and Kubrick, Gosford Park, Withnail and I, Cold Lazarus
    • Helena Bonham-Carter – Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Life’s Too Short, Harry Potter, Toast, The King’s Speech, Alice in Wonderland, Absolutely Fabulous, Enid, Terminator Salvation, Sweeny Todd, Corpse Bride, Conversations with Other Women, Big Fish, Planet of the Apes, Fight Club, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Twelfth Night, Frankenstein, Howards End, Hamlet, A Room with a View
    • Julian Wadham  Wah-Wah, The English Patient, The Madness of King George, Middlemarch and many other TV series
    • Jim Carter – My Week with Marilyn, Downton Abbey, Shakespeare in Love, Cranford, Modigliani, Ella Enchanted, Brassed Off, The Madness of King George
    • Harriet Walter – Young Victoria, Atonement, Babel, Sense and Sensibility
    • Leslie Vickerage – Inspector Lyley series
    • Barbara Leigh HuntBilly Elliot
    • Liz Smith – The Magic Flute, Keeping Mum, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Karaoke
  • Why? Helena Bonham-Carter
  • Seen:  Once before. Now August 10, 2014, with YW in our read-novel-see-film group
Anything with Helena Bonham-Carter rates several stars and Richard E. Grant is also good, as are several others in this cast.  I’m having a harder time than usual, though, in letting go of the novel to get into the film.
The novel was grim and thought-provoking and very good. Without changing so much of the story the film contrives to be amusing and mostly light-hearted.  It is called a romantic comedy which the novel definitely is not.
Gordon Comstock, living in London in the 30’s, fancies himself a poet. He despises money and gives up a well-paying job in advertising to avoid prostituting his talents to the system. Instead he sponges off a rich friend and his very poor waitressing hard-working long suffering older sister, and frustrates his artistically talented girlfriend.
Of course he ends up giving in, taking back his job, getting married and fathering a baby, accepting love.  And being very smug about it all.
A happy ending? I’m sure they would like us to think so. I find it very uncomfortable. Possibly they’re being ironic.  If so, it doesn’t work.  To quote YW: “The novel had a message. This film is glossy.”  I think the film has a message too: Forget your silly dreams of being a poet and sticking to your silly principles – real happiness and fulfilment is mummy, daddy, baby and identical row houses.
As always HB-C is worth 5*. The scenes of London are fun to see. The rich friend’s rich girlfriend Hermione (Leslie Vickerage) is fun. But the film as a whole?  A disappointment.

2 * of 5

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