Friday, February 27, 2015

Two films about street urchins in one week. One which I thought (how did this happen?) was a musical for children. The other actually was a musical (of sorts) for children.


And Annie.

Trash was not a musical for children. Stephen Daldry, the Slumdog Millionaire director and a high energy trailer had fooled me into thinking it would be as joyfully uplifting a story. Fooled me to the extent that I bought tickets for the fourteen and a half year old and the TEN year old without a scrap of shame on my face. Only to see with a sort of sick to the pit of my stomach horror when the certificate appeared on screen that the film was rated 15. Still, I thought to myself, 50 Shades of Grey broadened their minds so what harm can this do?? (Joking.) What a marvellously conscientious child sitter I am.  

Trash tells the tale of street urchins who pick out a living on the rubbish heaps of Rio and one day, happen across a wallet with a little money in it and a lot of pieces of innocuous paper that turn out to have mysterious clues. A plot about mayorial corruption is nicely woven together with a plot about the poor and but resourceful street kids dealing themselves some sort of justice in the face of aggressive and affluent opposition. 

It's pretty bloody. Pretty violent. Quite a lot of swearing. No musical numbers. A twisty turny actiony thrillery type movie that the ten year old watched with stoic determination. The two teenagers sobbed through (a bit of mind broadening, I hope). And I cringed through at my hopeless irresponsibility.

I hesitate to give it a glowing review although it's a cracking portrayal of the shitness of life in Brazil with no money and nothing and no-one looking out for you. But it hinges on a whole bunch of plot twists that, if you're being honest, are basically incredible. But if you're after only a grown-up Slumdog, it's just the ticket.  

Annie, on the other hand. My goodness me. 

Now I loved the original. Continue to love the original. Boisterous adorable Annie. Dissolute Miss Hannigan. The louche Rooster played with marvellous swagger by a youthful Tim Curry. Miss Thingummyjiggy peroxide blonde Lily St John or whatever she was called. The suave but endearingly uncertain Daddy W. His buttoned up but yearningly in love PA. This film was packed to the gunnels with stupendous cameos and peppered with cracking musical numbers and joyous grimy dance routines. Who doesn't, on occasion, squeak It's A Hard Knock Life to themselves as they trudge into work?

The remake. Has moments of surprising laugh out loud humour. Made all the more poignant for the guilt you feel in laughing aloud at this awful film.

Its cast is mostly composed of insufferable cliches. With the possible exception of Annie. Who they've turned black to give the film supposed street cred. The urchin kids are mostly endearing. The Daddy W character is turned into a mobile phone mogul (his network never drops a call reportedly - though they never do anything funny with this) who's running for mayor. He's given an additional sidekick for comic effect: a MaxClifford type who advises him on all things image-related. He's a sort of Rooster substitute in the end - but without Tim's casual charm to excuse his bad behaviour. 

And the real travesty is Miss Hannigan. She is still drunk. Still mean. Still man hungry. But she's turned into a foster carer for a much smaller pack of kids living in Brooklyn in a pretty nice apartment by most people's standards (if she kept it tidy). Quite bad decision two: the climactic plot is foiled because she TURNS GOOD. But worse much worse than all of that, someone thought (and she probably petitioned extremely hard to be cast) that Cameron Diaz would be a great choice as the frayed around the edges Annie-hating beeyatch from hell. 

A word to the casting director. She was not.

The trouble, I think, lies with Cameron's physiognomy. You look at her face - she's beautiful - you want to smile at her. You don't look at her and think 'she's a poisonous witch who would take joy from these children's misery'. I don't, anyway. So even when she gets a proper run at it, as the fast-paced script allows scant opportunity for characterisation, such as with the delicious "Little Girls" (less delicious as it appears to have been horribly rewritten), her bitchery is frankly unconvincing. 

Daddy Warbucks has become someone who is hateful because of his association with mobile phones rather than his fundamental dislike of people. His PA woman does nothing for the feminist cause. She just drifts around being efficient. A witchy public records admin woman (who turns almost nice when transformed by Daddy W's unarguable wealth) adds some (limited) nastiness to the film. But it's really intolerance rather than out and out unpleasantness.

Anne is cute. Feisty. Stoically optimistic. In love with tomorrow. But poor Annie. One small girl, a not curly haired dog (oversight) and a succession of increasingly ridiculous song and dance numbers does not (in this instance) a film make. It's just about worth going to see for the soundtrack which manages to weave overtones of the Hard Knock Life and Loving Tomorrow in amongst about everything. 

But unless you're a real devoted fan, this film is hardly worth the celluloid it's printed (pressed?) on. 

Having said all of that, I still ended up weeping at the moment of re-unification. Soft hearted fool.


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