Once Upon a Time in the Midlands Reviews
Waking up in a drunken haze Glaswegian crook Jimmy (Robert Carlyle) sees his ex, Shirley (Shirley Henderson), being proposed to on a daytime TV chat show. She spurns the proposal of Dek (Rhys Ifans) live on air, leading Jimmy to head back to his old town to claim back Shirley and his young daughter (Finn Atkins), that he left behind years ago.
After "TwentyFourSeven" and "A Room for Romeo Brass", this completes Shane Meadows' so called 'midlands trilogy' and with the actors involved, this has an abundance of quality. Despite this though, it's the weakest of the trilogy. That's not to say that there's nothing to enjoy, there is, and its plentiful. It just seems a bit too lighthearted in comparison with Meadows' other films. The excellent actors involved put in fine performances. Ifans and particularly Carlyle are two of the best in the business; Henderson is one of the most underated of actresses, deserving of far more attention and adding Kathy Burke and Ricky Tomlinson for some mild comic relief is always welcome. However, with this undoubted talent onscreen, it only makes it more frustrating that they aren't pushed to the extent that they're capable of. I suppose this is down to Meadows prefering a more humourous approach and if you're aware of this beforehand then you might not feel as disappointed with the lack of danger that he normally applies to certain characters. His use of a spaghetti western theme throughout a 'kitchen-sink' family drama is a wonderful touch though.
A good little comedy/drama that certainly entertains but it lacks any real emotional punch and should have made more of the fine ensemble of actors. Meadows' most impressive cast, yet strangely, one of his least impressive films.
That being said, it's a light entertaining film with some great British actors and although that worked to a certain degree, Meadows talent lies in being able to pick fresh talent/untrained actors creating a gritty life-like situation. This was more of a 'roughed up rom-com'
I did like the use of the talk show though, which strangely hasn't been used in any films that I am aware of.
A comedy drama that isn't funny or dramatic enough to surpass even moderate expectations. The director Shane Meadows appears to relish depicting the working class, but here his characters largely come across like one dimensional Viz cartoon strips, only not as comically pleasing, yet at the same time just as stereotypical. The cast is made up of a strong British cast from all corners of the country, but the slightly soap opera style writing is never quite good enough meaning no one ever gets the chance to shine. There are some amusing parts toward the first half, but the maudlin and trite closing sequence is enough to make me never want to watch this ever again.
One for the future: Kathy Burke
Stand-out scene: Car vs. baseball bat
Brainer or no-brainer: Brainer
Stands up to one viewing or repeated?: Repeated
DVD commentary any good?: n/a
As both a fan of the work of Shane Meadows and a Midlander (but West not East) this appealed, even if the director himself has denounced this film as below his best. It's also sad to note that it was her experience of filming this movie that caused Kathy Burke to hang up her acting spurs in favour of a behind the camera role - a great loss to British acting, but I suppose a great gain for British directing. Everything seemed to be in place for a terrific movie; Meadows behind the camera; a cast including Burke, Robert Carlyle, Rhys Ifans, Shirley Henderson and Ricky Tomlinson and a script penned by Meadows himself in conjunction with his long-time collaborator Paul Fraser. While this is by no means a complete wash-out it has to be said that when all is said and done it doesn't quite hit the mark. The story itself, I feel, is not as resonant as Meadows' other works (those i've seen, that is) and when it comes down to it has a pretty run-of-the-mill love triangle at its heart. The bigger budget and fairly high profile cast seem not to suit Meadows' style, and with only Henderson attempting the Nottingham accent this doesn't make the best use of its setting. Carlyle is jailbird Scot Jimmy who awakes one day to find his former girlfriend (and mother of his daughter) on Vanessa's talkshow, turning down an proposal of marriage from her new paramour (Rhys Ifans). After an incident with two clowns (Vic and Bob) he travels south with a holdall full of money in pursuit of his lost love (Shirley Henderson). With a shell-suited Kathy Burke and country and western music loving Ricky Tomlinson as near neighbours, the on paper quality of the movie is assured. A missed opportunity.
[font=Trebuchet MS][size=3][b]In the Cut: [/b]I used to think of Jane Campion as a good director. I really have to wonder what the hell she was thinking making this piece of trash. I mean, it's a mess everywhere. I don't know what she was trying to do. Was it supposed to be artistic at times, or just flat out stupid? The story flowed like a car with a blown out tire.[/size][/font]