LFF 2013: Afternoon Delight *****

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Writer-director Jill Soloway does for Kathryn Hahn (Revolutionary Road) what Paul Feig did for Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, and given a very naturally funny lady a leading role – albeit, Wiig did co-write herself a part in the 2011 film. Hahn is a total triumph as bored, affluent Jewish housewife Rachel who has access to everything she desires but is just not happy. An exploration of ‘money can’t buy happiness’ here, Afternoon Delight certainly pours cold water on the supposed domestic bliss of the middle-class, stay-at-home mum. It’s a little darker and more poignant than Desperate Housewives, but it has the same destructive nature at play, with Hahn in the driver’s seat.

Thirtysomething mother-of-one and housewife Rachel (Hahn) is fed up having to attend the local Jewish social function scene and living the ‘perfect’ Silverlake lifestyle in LA. With her kid in school and hubby Jeff (Josh Radnor) always busy developing his apps, she needs therapy and something to spice things up a little – especially in her love life.

On a whim, Rachel, Jeff and another happily married couple (well played by Jessica St. Clair and Keegan Michael Key) decide to visit a downtown strip joint, where a tipsy Rachel gets a lap dance from McKenna (Juno Temple). Fascinated by the young stripper’s supposed carefree and exotic lifestyle, Rachel invites her into her life and then her home, thinking McKenna could be a project for her to ‘save her soul’. The explosive consequences open up all the cracks with Rachel’s idyllic existence that she’s been hiding away from.

Soloway’s writing pedigree (Six Feet Under and United States of Tara) stands her in excellent stead to produce a harrowingly funny and nuanced comedy drama that strikes at the heart of any bored individual dreaming of change. The plot does initially sound farfetched – stripper and housewife bond, but Soloway avoids the clichés with both Rachel and McKenna, creating fully rounded and intriguing characters who give and take from each other, and never go by the book. The humour is bittersweet at times and ironic at others as each woman tries to understand the other, emphasised by scenarios that put each one out of their comfort zone.

Hahn rides the emotional rollercoaster that is Rachel with full aplomb, cultivating with a wonderfully drunken rendition of self-loathing at the end in front of shocked and anxious girlfriends – similar to Wiig’s meltdown in Bridesmaids. This is Hahn’s time to shine in the leading girl role, and it’s a long time coming to reveal her as a tour de force in the superior ‘chick flick’ genre, but well worth the wait and the right material.

In addition, Temple does well to not stereotype McKenna, except for the slutty Barbie pink image and obvious professional mindset. However, the hilarious supporting standout performance prize goes to Glee’s Jane Lynch as lesbian therapist Lenore who has a surprise in store for Rachel (and us) at the end of the ordeal that brings tears to the eyes.

Female comedy drama is burning bright in recent years, with storylines that drive to the heart of real women’s issues. Soloway’s Afternoon Delight builds a comical (if generally unlikely) premise for all those issues to be addressed in the modern-day pressure cooker to have and do it all. Afternoon Delight is also the pitch-perfect morning, afternoon or evening viewing for any stay-at-home-mum who gets the ‘grass is always greener’ speech from her working sisters. There are only so many coffee mornings a girl can stomach…

5/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2013: The Past *****

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Exciting Iranian director Asghar Farhadi of Oscar-winning A Separation (2011) returns with French drama The Past (Le passé) that again touches on the remnants of divorce and its effects on the family. Far from being just an intense and deeply emotional experience – as most French relationship dramas tend to be, this one weaves in a crime mystery for added measure and intrigue, if the stroppy teen and even stroppier mother get too much to bare. Co-writer Farhadi still links the story to his homeland, with Iranian actor Ali Mosaffa in a lead role as Iranian national Ahmad.

Ahmad (Mosaffa) returns to the outskirts of Paris, France to finalise divorce proceedings with his turbulent French wife Marie (The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo) who has not made arrangements for his stay this time as there have been other no-shows. Added to which, Marie asks Ahmad to talk to her estranged teen daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet) who she can no longer communicate with to find out why she stays away from home.

With no option but to stay in the family house, Ahmad finds he’s sharing it with Marie’s new husband-to-be, Samir (Tahar Rahim) whose wife is in hospital in a coma after a suicide attempt, and Samir’s troubled young son, Fouad (Elyes Aguis) who distrusts the visiting stranger but soon grows fond of him as he pays him attention.

While uncovering Lucie’s problem, it’s soon apparent that Samir’s wife’s suicide might be the result of her discovering the affair between Marie and Samir via email, supposedly instigated by Lucie. Ahmad feels he needs to get to the bottom of things, if only to spend one last time with his outgoing family and for the fragile peace of mind of his former wife and her children he once called his own.

Farhadi creates a claustrophobic space that bristles with life and full-frontal emotions, highly explosive at any one second. The family home is both the battleground and the retreat, with Ahmad sent like some guardian angel character to keep the peace. Mosaffa is an enigmatic and authoritative presence on screen, a mixture of kindness and aloofness in the role, but a complete opposite to Bejo’s emotional wreck Marie.

Bejo shakes with raw anger, hurt and frustration as Marie, a woman under fire from all angles and constantly putting up defences that slowly crumble as she realises how affecting Ahmad still is. Bejo is simply magnificent here, once again, in a standout performance of her own. With Samir in the equation, Farhadi creates a gladiatorial space in the kitchen to pit Samir against Ahmad in the clash of the male egos. It’s intoxicating stuff, and there is a standoff moment that is brilliantly acted when Samir believes Ahmad is undermining him in front of his son.

The suicide-mystery part takes the story along a different trajectory, but it’s key to this vulnerable family’s happiness. It’s expertly woven into the family’s healing process, so as a sub-plot, becomes integral, showing some astute writing. The end shot is a breathe-stopping moment that has the credits rolling over it, but the beady-eyed among us will notice signs beforehand that will answer many questions.

Farhadi’s all-consuming and cerebral emotional drama puzzle The Past could be another awards contender, with a scriptwriting prowess matched by an exceptional cast under talented direction.

5/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Machine ***

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Writer-director Caradog W James tackles the age-old sci-fi fantasy of making artificial life with superior intellect in The Machine. The thriller raises the moral dilemma of playing god and the pitfalls of having such power to hand. In a sinister twist with recent events surrounding the missing Flight MH370, the film also brews political tension with a Cold War situation between China and the West, all within a sub-£1 million budget.

Toby Stephens plays neuroscientist Dr Vincent McCarthy who has both professional and personal reasons for success in his research into the most advanced artificial intelligence set to help mankind. Working in a covert laboratory in a special bunker for the Ministry of Defence, he hires AI expert programmer Ava (Caity Lotz) to complete the last puzzle of the jigsaw. However, tragedy sees the project take a sinister turn, with the MoD’s real aim to create the ultimate robotic solider that acts human but is indestructible in nature. Dr McCarty realises the worse but has fallen for his Machine.

The film’s harsh, stark production design adds a chilling atmosphere to an already foreboding presence that helps accentuate any warmth or feeling glimmering through, with a further harrowing subplot between father and sick child that resonates with any parent. For a low-budget film, there are a lot of themes comfortably at play here that make for a believable but disturbing premise. Lack of big budget means James delivers a lean project that has to concentrate on the characters’ psyches rather than CG to work.

Stephens is commendable in the role of Dr McCarthy, a contradiction in himself of a human only half surviving, running like a machine. His character makes a good contrast with that of Lotz’s cyborg. The US actress gives an impressive performance here, as memorable as Blade Runner’s Rachael (Sean Young) or Pris (Daryl Hannah). In fact, there has been a long-awaited need to revisit the subject of A.I., not satisfied by Warners’ smaltzy A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) with Haley Joel Osment as the cutesy robokid. James strips emotions to the bare essentials, but makes the subject a controversial challenge by the very nature of the setting.

The film does show its budget restraints at times in some of the fight scenes, but there are raw choreographed moves involving Lotz that more than make up for this. That said the ‘birth’ scene is highly visual and there is a sense that James spent a good portion of his effects budget getting this part right. In his claustrophobic setting, life pulses to be born and survive which makes for an infectious end aim.

Overall, The Machine has a chic, sparse style to it within a highly believable, near-future dystopia that with actual advances in modern science is hard to merely write off as fictional. There is the totally obvious ending and desired sequel set-up, but here’s hoping not one that tarnishes the pure intrinsic beauty of this film’s design quality if more money were thrown at it.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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LFF 2013: Starred Up ****

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Referring to youth offenders sent to adult prisons because of their violent behaviour, Starred Up sounds like another gritty prison drama, as depressingly abundant in British cinema as the gritty gang-related flicks set on sink estates in the capital. In fact, Young Adam director David Mackenzie and debut screenwriter Jonathan Asser’s pressure cooker of incarcerated menace actually tries for a different angle: exploring the miserable fallout of domestic violence on children.

Troubled and angry teenager Eric (Jack O’Connell) is sent down into the bowels of a tough adult prison where every inmate is a potential target of developing an ingrained prison mentality. His estranged father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) is also a long-serving inmate detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure. What seems like a reassuring prospect for the youngster at risk is far from it. It’s only with the intervention of Oliver (Rupert Friend), a volunteer therapist passionate about addressing Eric’s unruly behaviour that he stands a glimmer of a chance. However, with the penal system and its staff desperate to write Eric off and label him, he is subsequently exposed to a greater threat closer to home.

However well Asser’s background working in Wandsworth prison serves him here, making for a totally authentic environment, there is still a cynical element to the characterisation in the film that such a genre cannot shake off, peppered with the typical full-on expletives you would come to expect. In fact, the prison slang takes adjusting to in parts, acting both a plus and a minus in our understanding of prison existence. That said the level of violent intent is not in the dialogue but the body language – this is a very physical film, and the filmmakers keep matters tightly wound to breaking point.

Central to this are some outstanding performances from O’Connell and Mendelson, both hugely exciting actors in British cinema today. The father-son friction is only as successful as this pair makes it when in face-to-face confrontation and it’s utterly electrifying to witness. The frustrations both experience really resonate as much as our own frustration with the poor communication their familiar bond suffers from. It’s always touch-and-go and highly charged, even when there is a glimmer of hope that’s subsequently shattered.

Mackenzie’s commendable direction keeps things tight and super claustrophobic, resulting in the viewer often wanting out of Oliver’s brick-walled therapy room, say, but being just as much a prisoner within the four walls when male egos collide. Friend is also exceptional in this, balancing the right amount of teetering control with a suggested sinister side and background as the embattled ‘posh toff’ therapist. His frustrations are also completely comprehensible, resulting in actions anyone would forgive in the circumstances. In fact, the lack of coherent communication is what ironically drives this drama as actions need to speak louder than words but regrettably so.

It’s a very worthy start to Asser’s budding film career, thankfully cultivated by Mackenzie’s talent, resulting in an explosive and criminally tragic watch that makes you ultimately disappointed that history is allowed to constantly repeat itself.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Ironclad 2: Battle For Blood ***

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Writer-director Jonathan English got surprisingly lucky with the first Ironclad (2011) film, as it offered a thrilling/shocking blood thirst of video-gaming proportions, as well as an impressive cast, including Paul Giamatti, Brian Cox, Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance and the dashing James Purefoy. Still set in the harsh surroundings of 13th Century Britain, post the Great Siege of Rochester Castle, the second film, Ironclad 2: Battle For Blood, seems to have switched target audience, with a more youthful cast of mainly TV actors.

After the De Vesci castle home comes under attack from a band of marauding Celts, resulting in a critical body wound for the master of the house, Gilbert De Vesci (David Rintoul), his son Hubert (Tom Rhys Harries) is tasked with fetching his battle-scarred cousin, Guy (Tom Austen) to defend their ancestral home. But the bitter Guy comes at a price and with a band of reprobates in tow, in the form of semi-mute friend Maddog (Predrag Bjelac), cackling executioner Pierrepoint (Andy Beckwith) and Crazy Mary (Twinnie Lee Moore), recently saved from the chop.

The noticeable sticky factor is the absence of big names this time around, however popular Game of Thrones and its actress Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark) – playing the lady of the house here – might be. The film hence precariously rides on the back of its predominantly big-screen newcomers, such as Austen and fop-haired Hunky Dory actor Rhys Harries to whip up a younger frenzy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Ironclad 2 is as blood quenching, relentless and gallant as the first. It also further perpetuates the clever idea of ‘castle claustrophobia’, where fight not flight is the only answer. However, as the story progresses, there’s only so much painted, kilted clansmen – some amusingly like pouting extras straight out of Xena: Warrior Princess – and ironclad soldiers butchering each other one can take, before it gets a little tedious and glaringly predictable, something the first film managed to avoid altogether.

Indeed, the worthy young cast do battle enough to keep the momentum flowing. Austen is swoon factor material, the age-old, brooding bad boy with a heart, sporting some of the best-threaded eyebrows of the 13th century. Meanwhile Hollyoaks’ Roxanne McKee plays the spoilt madam Blanche – far too lip-glossed for the period – providing the love interest, though this is rather drawn out, pointless and sterile at crunch point, that it hardly registers great passion.

It’s also not entirely clear from Guy’s flashbacks why he has a bee in his bonnet about his relatives. The other ‘kids’, Rhys Harries and Rosie Day as his sensitive sister Kate, do as much as their predicament (and the script) will allow them, which is precious little for the latter, the exciting newcomer of the creepy The Seasoning House. The real winner of it all seems to be Lee Moore who gets to act debauched and damn right dirty (like a former-day ladette), as well as reminding us how menacing Serb actor Bjelac of Harry Potter fame can be once more.

The success of English’s gamble relies on some clever youth marketing – fans of the first will be curious enough to come along and see it, with the promise of more CG blood splatters and historic ruin. The director manages to deliver a commendable production on what appears to be a far lower budget. The crux is the marketability of Austen as a younger Purefoy: That’s anyone’s guess, but it will make for intriguing box-office listings watching in the coming weeks, and might just surprise with another curveball.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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Plot For Peace ****

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The opening shot to this fascinating documentary, Plot For Peace, shows an unassuming man playing a card game, accompanied by a voiceover. The setting itself feels theatrical, as though subsequent events are a new fictional-feature spin on the release of one of the world’s most iconic statesmen, Nelson Mandela, and the end of Apartheid in South Africa. We soon learn that this is French-Algerian businessman and international diplomat Jean-Yves Ollivier, known as ‘Monsieur Jacques’. He’s real and has quite a story to tell, doing so in an unanticipated fashion.

This well-kept ‘secret weapon’ behind Mandela’s release is supported by on-camera confirmation from a ‘star-studded cast’, including Winnie Mandela (ANC activist and Mandela’s ex), Thabo Mbeki (former President of South Africa) and even Pik Botha (former Minister of Foreign Affairs for South Africa at the time), plus other heads of state, generals, diplomats, master spies, etc. The film skilfully uses news documentary footage to illustrate the story being told and events unfolding along the timeline, to really capture the imagination of the atmosphere and tension of the time, like any good thriller would. Directors Carlos Agulló and Mandy Jacobson simplify the complex political situation, adding excitement with the help of their lead character and writer Stephen Smith.

There is undoubtedly an ego to Monsieur Jacques that helped move political mountains, and the directors’ film gives a canvas for this key player to shine through in all his formerly anonymous glory. However, it’s not arrogantly and dramatically done, but understated and dignified, so much so, that you sometimes crave for more detail as to just how this individual ticks, how he did some of the best negotiating in history. On the other hand, there is still a guarded air of mystique as to his methods that pricks curiosity further; here’s just hoping that it didn’t merely boil down to a healthy financial offering.

Monsieur Jacques – who reveals how he orchestrated the removal of South African troops out of Angola and was key in a prisoner swap in Mozambique in the late Eighties – looks like a wheeler dealer (complete with villain) who looks like he enjoys too much of the fine life. However, he subtly wins you over as being one of the most remarkable politicians in history. This gets you thinking of how many more ‘hidden’ middlemen there are out there who also have compelling stories to tell, but might be sworn to state secrecy. If this were a novel plot, you would be hard pressed to believe it, and yet there feels like a whole lot more information ‘missing’ from the film that you can’t quite put a finger on. Perhaps there is just too much for one sitting?

In the end you realise just how monumental Plot For Peace is to our understanding of historical events – and how timely with Mandela’s death. There is definitely more to Monsieur Jacques that we might never get to hear, but are spurred on to go forth and discover. In that case, it’s a documentary well done.

4/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Zero Theorem ***

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Terry Gilliam returns to his Brazil ideas in his latest film, The Zero Theorem, such as Big Brother watching/controlling, quirky romance and even quirkier surroundings that scream of escapism from the throng of daily life’s burden. All set in a future of some description – though hopefully, not one we have to look forward to, there are a lot of current themes that ring true here, such as our increasingly alienated lifestyle as we plug in and reinvent ourselves online. The Zero Theorem trips itself up, plot-wise, but is nevertheless, fascinating and endearing, with a part made for multi-talented lead Christoph Waltz.

Waltz plays loner computer hacker Qohen Leth, a man so solitary that he speaks about himself in the Royal ‘We’. Leth is obsessed with finding the meaning of life and our existence, but is constantly interrupted by Management (Matt Damon) who throws projects at him to distract him from his goal – the task of Joby the supervisor (David Thewlis), such as the boss’s smart teenage son, Bob (Lucas Hedges), and call girl love interest Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry).

Gilliam gets full marks for imagination and choice of cast again, but this never quite elevates the film enough to the extraordinary and memorable. Much of the film’s positive effect is due to Waltz’s nuanced performance of a ‘trapped man’, his highs and lows and his journey back into the land of the living as he tries to reach out to Bainsley for human affection he so craves. There are a lot of valuable themes running through this hackneyed plot that help give the status quo more gravitas than it probably deserves. There is also a sense of urgency to creep in change before the powers find out, so it’s a little revolutionary in nature and consuming in this sense as you back Leth’s determination.

Waltz’s Leth is like an autistic person, making him compelling to watch as he interprets events around him. Waltz taps into the character’s good–bad sides, resulting in us never quite knowing how such a conditioned individual will react to the increasing invasion into his little world. Waltz also brings out a gentle man-child persona to Leth, coupled with natural sexual instincts awakened after a drug-fuelled party. Leth is often out of his comfort zone and detached, but the irony is the reality of being connected is not ideal either. Gilliam’s conundrums tease and question that of ‘the ideal’, making the ‘real’ seem ‘surreal’ with hindsight.

With some great supporting acts from Thierry, Damon and a live-wired Thewlis, The Zero Theorem is a satisfying and oddly zany plunge into dark satire and despair. It’s also another shout-out to us all to step back and reassess our technology-driven lives, before it’s too late – even the shrink, Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton), is running out of decent ideas. So too, perhaps, is Gilliam who may well have created some magical set design here, but needs something really fresh to animate life’s most troublesome woes.

3/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Grand Budapest Hotel *****

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Director Wes Anderson’s mind is a fascinating one, managing to engage us with imaginative characters and locations that have a warm but barmy feel to them. The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception, as theatrical and slightly obsessive as his others, but charmingly told. Ralph Fiennes has morphed into many characters over the years, and his delightful turn as camp, legendary concierge, Gustave H is one of the most splendid in some time.

The story begins in the ‘present day’, where a young writer (Jude Law) visits the notorious European hotel and meets with the current proprietor, Mr Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) to discuss how he came to be in such position. Jumping back in time, the story unfolds around about the time between the two World Wars, centring on Gustave H (Fiennes) and his flamboyant but attentive nature that won him many fans and lovers among his guests. One influential one is the neurotic, wealthy widow, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who he has a close relationship with.

At the same time, a new lobby boy starts, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who is put through his paces by Gustave but soon becomes his most trusted protégé and usual companion. After news of the sudden death of Madame D., Gustave and Zero set out to visit her home then hear the will read by her lawyer, Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum). The consequences of which set them on a perilous adventure that sees them entangle with the late Madame’s hotheaded son, Dmitri (Adrien Brody), his henchman Jopling (Willem Dafoe), and police chief Henckels (Edward Norton). Meanwhile, a budding relationship begins between Zero and his sweetheart, patisserie girl Agatha (Saoirse Ronan).

The cast alone is a mightily impressive draw – as the trailer shows, but in Anderson’s brilliant storytelling fashion, each character is not squandered but has its place and curious significance, like a well planned, well written fairytale; you never get to learn everything about each one but enough to make them individually intriguing. There is an eager pace too, that never tires, even when Gustave is sent down in midway through. Everything is precisely choreographed. An understated comic genius is the vein running right through, with a delivery like a latter-day Groucho Marx production. With this witty underpinning, all lurid subjects (sex, murder etc) are effortlessly dealt with, without losing their impact or shock value – it’s a very clever balancing act. All in all, there are layers of fun to be had within exquisite design and palette.

The film flows beautifully, thanks to Fiennes as Gustave who is meticulous and as proud as his establishment. The wonder in watching Fiennes/Gustave is the gentile comments that are often fully loaded and his decorum that never slips in any provocative situation but also feels wreckless and almost self-deprecatory. This contradictory façade hides a very dark side that may just materialise at any moment, as well as an implied bisexuality. Anderson gives us a delicious, multifaceted character to indulge in while Fiennes proves how much of a natural he is at comedy.

Great comic support also comes in the shape of Swinton as haggard old dear Madame D. with OCD and a walnut-whip of a hairdo – as much a manipulator as Gustave. There is a sense that the only one without an agenda is stalwart Zero, exceptionally acted by feature-film newcomer Revolori. The actor must own a lot of the mise-en-scène close-ups without moving much of a facial muscle. Goldblum, Brody, Norton and Dafoe play panto parts that instinctively compliment the tale and its eccentricities. Anderson has coaxed the best out of his cast, including Ronan sporting a cool birthmark. There is a real sense of total belief in the success of the film from all involved. It combines, comedy, theatre, murder and mystery in one hoot of a time. It’s an Anderson delicacy, much like the tale’s baking, to taste and savour.

5/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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The Stag **

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The mighty stag still holds a lot of comedy value, so much so Jon Turteltaub tried to do a geriatric version of The Hangover recently with Last Vegas that spawned a lukewarm response, even with a stellar cast onboard. Debut writer-director John Butler has tried to cash in on this fertile ground with his Irish version, The Stag, that boasts the stunning vistas of the Irish countryside as opposed to Vegas. The result is a safe and sanitised jaunt that disappointingly plays to caricature and the Carry On days of (giggle, giggle) ‘naughty’ nudity.

Mild-mannered groom-to-be Fionnan (Hugh O’Conor) is getting married to stunning Ruth (Amy Huberman) but doesn’t want a stag party. He is far more interested in the wedding detail, like the centrepiece flower arrangements on the tables than getting raucous with the lads. Persuaded by Ruth, best man Davin (Andrew Scott) is tasked with organising a tame stag weekend of camping in the great outdoors. However, Ruth wants her macho, bigoted whirlwind of a brother, ‘The Machine’ (Peter McDonald), to be invited, much to the other guys’ horror. What follows is a weekend of enlightenment and secrets revealed that could make or break friendships.

Your expectations of something familiar but altogether different are ripe at the start, partly because the film dips in gently into introducing the effeminate Fionnan, the metrosexual man that every bride would be thankful for. The writing does feel stilted, as does the delivery, but there is an amicable rapport creeping through between the groom and his best man that curiosity is pricked as to how things might escalate. Sadly, the only time it really does is when The Machine shows up.

There is something just too déjà vu and cosy about the whole scenario that never tries to raise a surprise. Even the inevitable confrontation between Fionnan and Davin – that is screamingly obvious from the start – fails to lead to anything of memorable substance. Granted, the film could have gone in the other direction, leading to The Hangover comparisons. Although The Stag is more realistic in events than the Hollywood latter, it still needs something unique of shock value rather than consistently delivering on expectations.

Most of the gag reels are the exclusivity of McDonald – the funniest involving an electric fence. McDonald must have felt the weight of comic dependency on his shoulders in the role. No sooner has the plot delivered a few eyes-to-the-ceiling moments, mostly due to The Machine’s antics, than the boys are back at the inn, ready to return home. The acting is commendable as far as the script will allow, while the only character arc is that of The Machine’s.

The bromance is not lost in The Stag, however odd the grouping is. The implied question mark over Fionnan’s sexuality is never picked up and played out to death, thankfully, though you do feel somewhat cheated that it didn’t provide a much-needed twist. Even the film’s natural charm is questionable; is it the characters or that of wistful thoughts of the Emerald Isle at play here? It’s very hard to tell. Butler has produced a consumable first feature, though one that is crying out for more impropriety.

2/5 stars

By @FilmGazer

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