Thursday, March 12, 2015

1987 - Hope and Glory

Well, this is a rarity. Two posts in two days! That hasn't happened since the first year of this blog. But rather than question it, let's just see how long this renewed enthusiasm lasts.

We now take a look at the final nominee in 1987's battle for Best Picture...

Hope and Glory
John Boorman
John Boorman
Sebastian Rice-Edwards, Sarah Miles, David Hayman, Geraldine Muir, Sammi Davis, Susan Wooldridge, Derrick O'Connor, Ian Bannen
Academy Awards:
5 nominations
0 wins

Hope and Glory is the story of family life during wartime, as seen through the eyes of a young boy, Billy Rohan (Rice-Edwards). When World War II reaches suburban London, Billy's father (Hayman) enlists to serve his country, leaving Billy and his mother (Miles) and two sisters (Muir & Davis) to survive the constant threat of air raids. Billy occupies himself with daily strolls through the rubble in his street, collecting shrapnel from the previous night's shelling, and soon he joins a gang of like-minded boys his age, although he never quite fits in.

It's not often that I really don't like a movie, but Hope and Glory didn't grab me at all. The subject matter seemed interesting enough, and indeed, I've enjoyed many coming-of-age war films, but the contrivances and cliches, particularly from the laboured performances, left me with little to which I could relate. Everything just felt so staged and fake, which is surprising since this is often cited as writer/director John Boorman's most personal film.

The picture received many favourable reviews and accolades, and it appears to be considered somewhat of a classic, so perhaps I'm missing something, but what confuses me the most are references to this film as a comedy. Granted, there are amusing moments - or at least, attempts at humour - but it honestly hadn't occurred to me while I was watching it that this could be categorised as comedy. Much of the style is simply overwrought for my taste, be it intended as comedy or otherwise. The only time it seemed vaguely appropriate was during the few short fantasy sequences when Billy imagines himself involved in the war. But the impact of these scenes is severely lessened due to the rest of the film being played in a similar exaggerated style. It's almost as if Boorman created a film in the style of 1940s cinema, with its melodramatic acting and overly sentimental dialogue, but sadly, I suspect that was unintentional. Which is a shame because if it had been made in the 1940s, I doubt I would have judged it as harshly. I'm not sure what that says about my cinematic expectations.

While I found it difficult to relate to much of the emotional content, at least I found one familiar topic to which I could wax nostalgic - backyard cricket. I may not have been able to bowl a googly at Billy's age but the reference to the six-and-out rule did make me smile. It also reminded me how much I miss watching cricket. I mean, the bloody World Cup is on right now and I have to be satisfied receiving score updates on my phone because I can't watch a single game in this country unless I want to pay $99 a month for the privilege. But I digress...

Hope and Glory didn't receive any acting nominations, so at least I agree with the Academy on that. I can forgive the child actors for being a little hammy, but the other members of the cast get no such mercy. Sarah Miles cries too quickly and laughs too loudly. Ian Bannen merely plays the idea of a crotchety old man, without any real truthfulness. Derrick O'Connor is probably the only actor who manages to avoid histrionics, but unfortunately it's not enough to make us forget the rest of the performances.

I think it's fair to say I did not care for this film.

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