Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Dorriteers show their vesatility

Being a charming, worthy Mr Nice Guy is so boring - do you mind if I play a control
freak wife abuser? (Fine, Matt, see 'Criminal Justice' 2008)

As far as Matthew Macfadyen goes I seem to be a late convert - I found 'Spooks' portentous and totally lacking in credibility. I somehow missed him playing D'Arcy to Keira Kneightly's Elizabeth Bennett in the 2005 film version of 'Pride & Prejudice' (but I, like everyone else, was in thrall to Colin Firth then any way). The trailer for the 2004 NZ film 'In My Father's Den' looked good, and he looked good in it, but I haven't seen it (one for the Quick Flicks list). I thought he was a competent, pudgy, but hardly charismatic, straight man in 'Death At A Funeral' (2007).

'Little Dorrit' (see last post) was the breakthrough for me - Macfadyen brought to Arthur Clenham (so boring on the page) wonderful humanity, warmth and humour. I'd put him up there with James Stewart in 'Harvey' for making niceness* acceptable and admirable on screen.

'Little Dorrit' was full of fine performances and I was tantalised to see three of its stars,
Macfadyen, Eddie Marsan and Maxine Peake, reunited in 'Criminal Justice' which the ABC has just run as a 2 part drama over the last two Sunday nights (but which was actually filmed to be shown as a 5 part series in the UK the same year as 'Little Dorrit', 2008).

I have enjoyed Eddie Marsan's work since I first saw him in as the
hyper tense driving instructor with stalking tendencies and anger management problems in 'Happy Go Lucky'. His Pancks in 'Little Dorrit' was a wonderful blend of grotesquery and zeal. He outdoes them all for wearing his east end Jewish heritage like a badge, making Bob Hoskins seem like Ralph Richardson by comparison. In 'Criminal Justice' he was clerk of chambers in the practice where MacFadyen's character worked as a barrister and god father to his daughter. We saw him seemingly callous, 'I've go a nice rape for you in Manchester', but also touching in his obvious regard and love for his colleague and when recounting how his character's father came to London in WWII as part of the Kindertransport.

When I saw Maxine Peake as the enigmatic and manipulative Miss Wade in 'Little Dorritt', I thought 'I know that face', then I read her screen credits but nothing rang a bell until I saw she was Twinkle in Victoria Woods' Dinnerladies. Hard to believe it, but her recent performance surpasses even that sublime creation! John Preston in Britain's Daily Telegraph called her work in Criminal Justice 'a marvel' and so it was. To quote him further, the production suceeded in:
ratcheting up the tension with 'Hitchcockian precision' and (using) the weight of the character's dilemmas to drive the narrative forward
Can't omit reference to the performances delivered by
Sophie Okonedo and Alice Sykes either - all the cast were just outstanding. Superlative telly!

* Stewart as Elwood P. Dowd in 'Harvey': Years ago my mother used to say to me, she`d say, "In this world, Elwood, you must be" - she always called me Elwood - "In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me".

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