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Boogie Woogie

Film One Star
Boogie Woogie boasts a great cast list and it's hard for you not to be drawn to the film. Starring Danny Huston, Gillian Anderson, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Alan Cumming, Jamie Winstone, Heather Graham, Charlotte Rampling, Amanda Seyfried and Simon McBurney you would have to believe that it's a good film and they all signed up knowing that.

The film is adapted from the Danny Moynihan novel (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) by the man himself, a novel that I believe was rather well regarded. Directed by Duncan Ward who only has a short to his name before Boogie Woogie, the film version does come with a number of uncertainties.

However it was the ensemble cast that drew me to the Boogie Woogie film and I couldn't help but believe that it was going to be something special. How wrong I was.

Plot.pngBoogieWoogie.jpgIt's difficult to find a real plot from watching the film, but on paper it's a series of stories that all intertwine around one main thread, a classic painting called the Boogie Woogie, a painting that an old man just won't give up, however there are a number of people who want to get their hands on it and will stop at nothing to get it.

There's the art dealer who is keen to sell it on to one of his clients with a nice hefty price on top, there's the art dealer's client who is setting up shop on his own with one of the dealer's employees and wants the deal for himself, there's the original owner of the painting who wants to keep hold of it, and his wife who wants the cash to help with their debts, and...well let me just leave it by saying that the other threads of the story try to cross over with these in some way or another.

TheFilm.pngI didn't even go into half of the threads there and it's already getting confusing from the short write up, and let me tell you that when they are all in place and you're trying to follow them, it becomes a very confusing film. I don't mean that you'll find it confusing because it's too clever or because it's really complex, the real reason is that it's just a mess.

You can see what the film was trying to do, and in a way it was trying to emulate the feel of a Guy Ritchie film, except he does it much better. No, not the London gangster-geezer story, but pulling together multiple threaded story lines circling around a main MacGuffin plot, having them intertwine and meet at the end of the film to give a satisfying conclusion.

Boogie Woogie attempts this but doesn't even manage to bring the threads together successfully, at times some of the threads aren't even explained properly and leave you wondering what the hell it's all about. Some of the threads are started and left for ages before returning to them for seemingly no strong reason, and the film loses some of them and doesn't pull them together for the end of the film.

Even the MacGuffin plot thread of the painting isn't developed or tied in with all the other threads. It doesn't skirt and dance with the others, keeping them close enough to suggest connections and point the audience in various directions right or wrong, it just doesn't work.

I'm not sure if it's because the threads are so badly handled and feel confusing that I got the impression that there are far too many characters in the film, or if it's just because there actually are too many characters, but whatever the reason it does feel just that way, too many characters. I think it could be put down to the fact that some of the plot threads just don't hold together well, and therefore it feels like a number of the characters are just hanging loose from the main story.

There are a few characters that just seem totally superfluous, such as the one played by Amanda Seyfried, Paige Prideaux. Her character and the entire thread about her unborn twin is completely out of the blue and goes nowhere fast, leaving you sitting there bemused and unsure of why it was even brought up.

There's a similar feeling about much of the film, if not all. After seeing the ending play out I found myself wondering what was the point of the entire film and what the story really was.

We've seen the moralistic tale of some strange world such as art or fashion before, and here there just wasn't any point, there wasn't anything interesting in the story, other than watching some of the actors playing some rather interesting roles and seeing Amanda Seyfried's legs, and both Heather Graham's and Gemma Atkinson's breasts. Really, those were redeeming moments.

There were some good performances and moments in the film though, it wasn't all bad. Danny Huston, Stellan Skarsgård and Alan Cumming were all very good, as was Heather Graham. Gillian Anderson with her drawling posh London accent had a rather funny moment giving a blow job to someone in public toilets - don't get too excited though, it's all done exceedingly tastefully and you see nothing, although the moments of her affair beginning can be rather amusing.

It was also great to see Christopher Lee, or should I say Sir Christopher Lee, and Joanna Lumley in the film, although they don't have a lot to do, they do have nice roles and perform their brief moments well enough.

It is Danny Huston who does steal the show though, what of it there is, his slightly irritating character who is just a step below successful is great fun to watch, from the scenes in his workplace with his female employees to his moments at home provide some good amusement, and his laugh was both driving me mad and making me laugh at the same time. He is a great character actor.

Overall.pngHowever despite some brief moments of interest, whether they be through individual characters, actors, or through certain sequences, the film as a whole never gels together and you do find yourself wondering what it was all about and why.

The film mishandled many of the plot threads, and when it is a film built around these threads, particularly with a main MacGuffin thread, it ends up feeling a mess from start to finish. Threads are dropped midway through their story, picked up later without rhyme nor reason why, don't seem to connect, and some don't even give any conclusion that seems to matter to the story.

I do suspect that maybe the book, and perhaps the script were good, and that is why so many big names decided to sign up for the film in the first place, but seen in the final form, it's not a good film at all.

Filmstalker at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009
Buy the book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
Boogie Woogie on Wikipedia



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