Director Tony Goldwyn manages a curious, accurate atmosphere. The early scenes in the Butlins-style camp are terribly funny ("The Knish man is on the premises") but never simply a backdrop. And yet the feeling that all of this is about to change, and change for good, is emphatic.
As people crowd to the festival, passing the camp like wild soldiers, the film takes on the mood of a strange dance. Pearl escapes to the festival and is almost entirely undone by its impact, although the few scenes at Woodstock itself are beautifully unfurious and sane. It would have been easy for Goldwyn to have attributed vividness only to the hippies, but he does not; although their confident amazement does feel like a flame that is about to fill all of space. Goldwyn's take on culture versus counterculture is rightly complex. Square America might well have been over, but Woodstock was the end for the hippies too. And the soundtrack is overwhelming. Incidentally, I walked straight into a record shop to buy a Fairport Convention album, and I don't think it's indiscreet to mention that I saw two other critics shuffling around the folk section too.
The Cup is about the 1998 World Cup, which teenage Tibetan monk Orgyen (Jamyang Lodro) is as desperate to watch as were the other 6 billion of us. Writer and director Khyentse Norbu is himself a highly distinguished incarnate lama, but a progressive and an anti-reactionary, equally in love with Prince Siddhartha and Satyajit Ray. But because Norbu has an agenda, the film's promised culture clash never develops, and an indulgent liberalism (the monastery watches the final together, all indiscipline forgiven) prevails. He smiles on the Beautiful Game without realising that the Game is no longer Beautiful: especially not when poor Ronaldo is shovelled off his sick-bed into the shop window of the World Cup final.
ed-TV apes last year's excellent Truman Show. Matthew McConaughey stars as Ed, a boorish but convivial video shop assisant who is selected to star in a 24-hours-a-day docusoap of his own life. At first Ed likes the attention; then he hates it, but is unable to flee the contract with the television company because of all the scurrilous small print he failed to spot. Ron Howard's light film benefits from a terrific cast (Dennis Hopper, Martin Landau). But it has none of Truman's lonely woe, nor Peter Weir's thorough sense of unfair play.
Random Hearts is an utterly middle-aged drama featuring Harrison Ford stopping at nothing to find the truth. Again. He plays a widowed cop who falls in love with a wannabe Congresswoman played by the ever-starched Kristen Scott Thomas.
Ford simply must start altering his facial expression. His line in outraged probity is becoming frankly weird. There's nothing he prefers to standing with his arms tight to his sides, hurting like a schoolteacher whose favourite pupil has just told him that To Kill A Mockingbird sucks.
Fanny and Elvis is set in the kind of Yorkshire town the Ready Brek boy lived in. Ray Winstone plays a used-car salesman who falls in love with a novelist (Kerry Fox) after their respective partners run off together. She wants a baby and he's happy to oblige, but they fight. So, to the slogans "Garbo Laughs" (Ninotchka) and "Brando Sings!" (Guys and Dolls) we can add "Winstone Hugs!" It's great to see him escape from the straitjacket that the likes of Roth and Oldman seem to want him in, but director Kay Mellor (Band of Gold) is hardly the talent to set him free.
Brokedown Palace stars Kate Beckinsale and Clare Danes as naive American backpackers wrongly convicted of heroin trafficking in Thailand. The worst thing that happens to them is that they get Toni and Guy haircuts (feathery, chaotic bobs). Simply, it's another western nightmare about the incompetence of foreign legal systems.
The Other Sister is set staunchly in country-club America. Carla (Juliette Lewis) is a young woman who has spent most of her life at a special-needs boarding school. She returns home to her wealthy family, and clashes with her anally retentive mother (Diane Keaton, in one of those repulsive roles which have distinguished her recent work as much as her charm distinguished her early stuff). This type of role is a predictable application for the febrile tics Lewis brought to Cape Fear. Happily, she seems to have shed some of these mannerisms, suggesting a fresh and capable talent. But the real oasis in this desert is Giovanni Ribisi, playing Lewis's sweetheart.
The Rage: Carrie 2 features the underused Amy Irving as a teacher trying to help a disturbed pupil. "You can move things with your mind!" says Irving in her melting rasp. Just before she gets an arrow through her head.Reuse content