I live in Crouch End, it’s where hipsters go when they grow up, marry and breed. They’ll love this film, it’s hipster heaven – beautiful to look at and full of recognisably fragile emotions, it made me want to fall in love again.
Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) have been married five years – long enough to get a bit restless, it’s the time when most couples start thinking of children. They live in a stylishly kitted out house in the Canadian suburbs, he writes books about chicken, she edits travel guides. They’re happy, and surrounded by family including a brilliantly cast Sarah Silverman as Lou’s alcoholic sister. Lou is mainly found in the kitchen cooking chicken, he’s a cosy man. A nice man – one you’d feel lucky to marry and really guilty for cheating on. But despite this, Margot is unfulfilled, not quite ready to write the book she thinks she has in her, and not ready for motherhood either. Just in the right place to flirt with that handsome stranger on a plane that she’ll never see again, then. Who turns out to live over the road. Honestly, if a hottie moved in over the road from me, I’d have my eye on him from the get-go, never mind all that ill-fated bumping into him at a historical re-enactment palaver. I’d have taken over so many cups of sugar he’d have type 2 diabetes. And Daniel, played by Luke Kirby, is a proper sugar-worthy hottie.
The slow burning relationship between Margot and Daniel is gorgeously done – it’s hard not to feel a bit jealous of their burgeoning affections, and if you don’t feel slightly intoxicated during their swirl on a fairground ride then it’s quite possible you are dead. Mind you, I could have done without the When Harry Meets Sally style martini hour. I don’t think they even finished those drinks.
It says a lot for Sarah Polley’s direction that you’re rooting for these two to get together, even at the expense of nice guy Lou’s emotions. The film doesn’t let you wallow in all that lovey dovey stuff though, just as you think you’ve reached the natural end, there’s a canny reminder that the magic glow usually fades, so you’ll need something to fill it – and we see a stylishly done evocation of what those somethings might be (in another infuriatingly stylish apartment. If struggling writers and artists can afford such amazing homes, then I think I might well move to Canada).
Strong performances from all three pull the film away from being irritatingly twee – although there are scenes that venture a bit too close to cringey, and I could have done without the baby voices for sure – and Sarah Silverman and does a great job as probably the only person in the film whose scars are on the outside. It’s hard to leave the cinema without feeling a bit of hipster envy, and although it’s not perfect, this is a brave look at what Silverman’s character calls ‘the gap’. At the time I was a bit annoyed by the ending, but in hindsight I think it’s the cleverest part of the film – where most love stories would fade to black and an Ed Sheeran song, Polley keeps the camera swirling and reminds you what love really is.
This is a very nice film, one you could happily sit down with granny and watch on Christmas Day. It’s very nice. Everyone in it is very nice, and it’s a very nice story – innocent young man skinny dips with Marilyn Monroe (no bits on display to offend granny so don’t worry) and saves a movie. It’s the sort of thing that pops up on BBC4 occasionally and fills a dull evening while you’re painting your nails.
Judy Dench is in it, she’s very nice. And Derek Jacobi pops up at one point (honestly, is it just me or does everyone burst out laughing when he appears in a film these days? I have a bit of a Pavolvian reaction to him). Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier is performed with extremely high camp and quite enjoyable for that – if you’ve seen The Prince and the Showgirl this does go some way to explaining the pained expression Sir Larry wears throughout. And Michelle Williams, of course, is much better than quite nice, giving a pitch perfect turn as Monroe – although without the pneumatic bosoms (I think they pad her arse out here and there mind you). She gets the little girl lost thing spot on, makes you think there must be a much grittier film to be made about Marilyn at some point if anyone’s brave enough to really tell her story.
There isn’t much else to say – it’s a quite nice film, quite nicely done. Granny will like it.