Also Showing: Reviews

happy texas mark illsley (12) alice et martin andre techine (15) the clandestine marriage christopher miles (15) scrooge brian desmond hurst (u)

STEVE ZAHN gives what might be the funniest performance of the movie year in Mark Illsley's debut feature Happy Texas. He plays Wayne, a convict with a handlebar moustache, a pugnacious streak and no discernible intelligence who goes on the run with fellow escapee Harry (Jeremy Northam). They fetch up in Happy, Texas, where, for complicated reasons, they have to masquerade as a pair of gay beauty-pageant organisers. So far, so farcical, at which point things spiral into a blissfully daft comedy of imposture: in between plotting to rob the local bank, Wayne has to give song-and- dance lessons to a troupe of little girls while Harry has to field the courtly attentions of the town sheriff (William H Macy).

Zahn is the same weaselly stoner he perfected in last year's Out Of Sight, adding a dash more truculence and, once schoolteacher Miss Schaefer (Illeana Douglas) falls for him, a touching romantic devotion. His goofiness brings out the best in Northam, following up his poker-stiff QC in The Winslow Boy with a rogue whose secret love for a wistful bank manager (Ally Walker) gives an already corkscrewed plot an extra twist. As her friend remarks: "if he's gay, why does he look at you like a fat man looks at fried food?"

What's great about the film is that it's comic about rural folk and sexual orientation without being in the least bit patronising or mean-spirited. There's a lovely moment when Harry is required to country waltz with the sheriff at a gay cowboy bar; a picture of unease to begin, we later watch him wreathed in smiles and thoroughly at home with his dance steps. Like the recent A Walk on the Moon, this is one of those "small" American films which endear themselves simply by paying attention to the details, yet never give any impression that endearing is what they aim to be.

I'm not sure I could have endured Andre Techine's Alice et Martin quite so calmly without the dark-eyed loveliness of Juliette Binoche to anchor the gaze. She plays a Parisian violinist, Alice, who falls in love with a young man, Martin (Alexis Loret), in flight from a traumatic event in his past. That Techine decides to replay the incident three-quarters of the way through, when we already know what happened, deadens the pace and throws the picture off-course. Binoche, however, is mesmerising, and locates once more the bereaved but courageous spirit of her great performance in Kieslowski's Three Colours Blue.

It was reportedly the financial intervention of its two major stars, Nigel Hawthorne and Joan Collins, which allowed The Clandestine Marriage to be completed. While such generosity is commendable, the film they've rescued is so feeble that you can't help wishing they'd saved their money for a better cause. Based on the 1766 comedy by Garrick and Coleman, it's a costume romp which revolves around the galloping ambitions of two families. It has a periwigged effeteness reminiscent of The Draughtsman's Contract, and its country-house setting is similarly grand. Yet it has neither the bracing cruelty of Greenaway's film nor its pungent wit.

No room last week to recommend the reissued 1951 Christmas heartwarmer Scrooge. These were good years for Dickens and cinema, following David Lean's peerless Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948). A Christmas Carol was as excruciatingly sentimental as anything Dickens wrote, but in director Brian Desmond Hurst's adaptation it becomes a magnificent Gothic nightmare, steeped in shadows and a terrible remorse. Alastair Sim is wonderful in the title role, his big gobstopper eyes expressive of ruthlessness, fear, vulnerability and, finally, twinkling gratitude as he emerges from his dark night of the soul. Look out, too, for George Cole as the young Scrooge, the thoroughly Dickensian Kathleen Harrison as his housekeeper, and the incomparable Hattie Jacques as Mrs Fezziwig. God bless them, every one.

AQ

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?