Jeanne Moreau, Joan Plowright, Julie Walters, and newcomer Lena Headey star in an enjoyable English comedy directed by Waris Hussein and set in Croydon, a straitlaced London suburb, in 1959. The story, adapted by Martin Sherman from Alice Thomas Ellis’s novel The Clothes in the Wardrobe, concerns a young woman (Headey) who finds herself engaged to a self-absorbed and insensitive local (David Threlfall) she couldn’t care less about. Her mother (Walters), prospective mother-in-law (Plowright), and everyone else in the vicinity somehow manage to dissuade her from backing out, and her only confidant proves to be Lili (Moreau), an unconventional, half-Egyptian friend of the family who turns up for the wedding and slowly but surely, using an arsenal of wiles, does what she can to set things right. Apart from offering a juicy star turn to Moreau, the movie has a lot of mordantly funny things to say about the conventionality of suburban English life, and all the actors shine; with Maggie Steed and John Wood. Starts Saturday, December 25, Fine Arts.
A young hustler (Will Smith) claiming to be the son of Sidney Poitier cons his way into the upper-class Manhattan household and affections of a middle-aged couple (Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland), with disquieting and soul-searching consequences once his fraud is discovered. John Guare adapted his own play by transplanting the action from a bare stage to a variety of realistic locations, most of them in Manhattan, and has fortunately (and daringly) retained the highly theatrical language of the original. Fred Schepisi’s razor-sharp direction makes it both sing and soar as it explores some of the social gulfs and philosophical crevices that define contemporary urban life. The movie basically belongs to Channing, who gives it both moral force and heat, but with an audacious lesson in making the theatrical cinematic Schepisi does a superb job as well. Fine Arts.
A middle-class Irish couple living in London with their two young sons are at the center of Les Blair’s fresh, lively, and utterly convincing comedy-drama about contemporary urban life. He’s a town planner (The Crying Game’s Stephen Rea) and she’s a housewife who works part-time at a bookstore (Waterland’s Sinead Cusack). The film carries no script credit and was essentially generated by the actors in collaboration with Blair. As a consequence, the minimal plot, involving such matters as a refurbished bathroom and the couple’s friends and coworkers, rambles a bit, but the focus is almost entirely on character, especially the lead couple and their marriage, and the film’s surface glitters with moments of actorly and behavioral truth. With Saira Todd, Clare Higgins, Philip Jackson, and Phil Daniels, who does a swell job of playing identical twins (1992). Music Box, Friday, December 24, through Thursday, January 6.
Based on a play by John Galsworthy, this 1933 British feature about anti-Semitism stars Basil Rathbone as a wealthy Jewish businessman sued for slander after he accuses an army officer (Miles Mander) of stealing 100 pounds from his wallet during a weekend house party for aristocrats. It might be argued that the film itself isn’t entirely free of anti-Semitism; as Frank S. Nugent wrote in the New York Times at the time, Rathbone’s “Shylock in modern dress . . . gets his pound of flesh in this drama, but finds his triumph empty,” which correctly implies that the character is something of a stereotype from the outset. Yet Galsworthy’s study in tribal loyalties has some less-than-obvious points to make, and Basil Dean’s direction shows some flair and genuine cinematic panache. A new 35-millimeter print of this fascinating relic, recently uncovered and restored by the British Film Institute’s National Film Archive, will be shown; cosponsored by the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, December 18, 6:30, and Sunday, December 19, 2:00, 443-3737.