Monday, February 05, 2007

Has Patrick Marber sold his soul to the Devil?

I only ask because not only did he write the screenplays for The Queen and Notes on a Scandal, the hottest British films of the last six months or so (except maybe the superb The Last King of Scotland) but he also found the time to write the excellent political drama Frost Nixon for the Donmar (well worth catching now it has transferred to the West End) [Update: of course Peter Morgan wrote Frost Nixon, still a good play though]. And if his Don Juan in Soho (also for the Donmar) was a little one dimensional it still provides the platform for Rhys Ifans to give a master-class in comic acting in the central role.

These envious thoughts were brought on by this evenings viewing of Notes on a Scandel, Marber's adaptation of Zoe Heller's novel of the same name. Most of the critical attention has quite rightly been focused on Dame Judy Dench's central performance as Barbara the elderly spinster who becomes obsessed with Sheba (Cate Blanchett) the new beautiful art teacher at the school at which Barbara teaches. Dench's performance is masterful. Barbara could easily become a cartoon villain in a less skilful actor's hands, but Dench's performance is subtle enough to allow the viewer to be repulsed by this obsessive sociopath but still feel some sympathy for a deeply lonely old woman. Dench is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, Blanchette as the shallow art teacher, and Bill Nighy as her loving husband whose world is destroyed by her affair with a pupil (although as The Girl pointed out he does go a bit love actually at one point).

This isn't a perfect film, the director Richard Eyre is over reliant on the score to build tension. It rather undercuts some of the shock of a key plot revelation if the score has been building up to a climax for the last two minutes. And notwithstanding Dench's brilliance at making her portrayal of a monster Barbara believable, when Blanchette hits her near the end there was still a part of my brain screaming "you can't hit her, don't you know that's Judy Dench!!"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Peter Morgan write Frost/Nixon, not Patrick Marber?

9:19 am  

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