The old saying "What were they thinking?" never goes away. A few current examples make my point. THE IRON LADY, which won Meryl Streep her third Oscar in late February, is in reality a mess of a movie and an insult to Margaret Thatcher, one of the great political leaders of the last half of the 20th Century. Instead of concentrating on her political career and her indomitable spirit, warts and all, the film goes into free fall almost from the first shot. True, Streep does a great Thatcher, but she is shackled by a lame frame story showing Thatcher stuck in memories and on-coming Altzeimer's. There is no rhyme or reason to THE IRON LADY, only Meryl Streep.
PBS MASTERPIECE THEATER just wrapped its three hour series of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, one of Dickens' most popular novels. Though true to the familiar story, this version skips back and forth between moving too slowly with agonizingly long close-ups and too quickly with hurried plots and a lack of character development. Beloved characters like Wemmick and Joe Gargery are barely seen. Some of the casting is downright strange. The star of the memorable PBS BLEAK HOUSE, Gillian Anderson plays the insane Miss Havisham as a dotty fourtyish blonde with a falsetto voice. Estella, as a child and an adult, is described as an exquisite beauty, but in this version, she simply isn't. Instead she seems clumsy and hardly refined by her French education. This is accented by the adult who plays Pip. The camera worships Douglas Booth, and it should. He is a professional model who looks as if he just stepped out of one of those Italian fashion spreads in Vanity Fair. We keep waiting for the slightest sign of life in this guy, but he hardly raises his voice. True, he's up against superb British actors like Ray Winstone as Magwich and David Suchet (Poirot) as the seemingly cold lawyer Jaggers, but maybe the casting director should be canned. Though beautifully filmed in almost gray and white, this new version of GREAT EXPECTATIONS disappoints on two many counts.
Also on television, AMC's THE KILLING has returned with two new episodes. Last year I watched this fascinating but frustrating series. The major characters were played by interesting and often unique actors. Though the first season ended in a story-telling debacle, I still had interest in Mereille Enos as the intensely glum Sarah Linden and Joel Kinnaman as her shifty partner. After episode 2 of the second season, I have formally withdrawn from THE KILLING. Why? Frankly, I can't take any more rainy days and nights in Seattle. I prefer Frazier Crane's version. I'm also sick of the Larsen family, who seem to live in an underground bunker where there are no smiles or even electric lighting. Who killed Rosie Larsen? Is she really dead? No more red herrings for me.