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Doctor Octopus, Commissioner Gordon and The Abomination all join forces in this 80's gem. Displays real people in a real environment trying to get on with their daily struggles of unemployment. Leigh certainly has an eye for realism, but not an ear for music. It's probably the fact this was 24 years ago now, but the music is jarring and off-putting. Roth and Phil Daniels are brilliant as brothers, displaying the right amount of bitter hatred and genuine love and concern.
Like so many Mike Leigh productions, "Meantime" is essentially a film about nothing, but it does have several vivid performances and characterizations. The cast alone is irresistible to film buffs -- Tim Roth, Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina are all showcased near the start of their careers. (Warning: Oldman and Molina have very small parts, and the DVD cover which emphasizes Oldman is shamefully misleading).
Roth and Phil Daniels (perhaps best known for starring in 1979's "Quadrophenia," though his appearance is radically different here) play bickering brothers in a struggling, working-class family. Everyone is disillusioned and bitter, and Roth is doubly burdened because he's, well, apparently a dimwitted autistic. An exasperating mouth-breather hiding behind a muddy anorak and thick glasses, Roth presents a sharp contrast to the commanding, belligerent roles he usually takes. Actually, Daniels seems to grabbed the Roth-like part as a surly malcontent who manages to rub everyone the wrong way. Other important contributors include Pam Ferris and Jeff Robert as the equally miserable parents, and Marion Bailey as a vulnerable aunt who strains to put on a cheery face (think Dianne Wiest). Meanwhile, Peter Wight almost steals the movie in a hilarious, deadpan scene as a casually philosophical landlord.
One unusual flaw seriously hurts the appeal of "Meantime": Andrew Dickson's soundtrack. Outside of "Welcome to L.A." (1976), I can't think of another solid film so grossly sabotaged by an unlistenable score. Words alone cannot capture its wretchedness. Some instrument sounding like a tack piano or hammer dulcimer meanders up and down a small, ringing span of notes in a vaguely Middle Eastern mode, while a quacking saxophone occasionally intrudes to add extra color. The sheer torture of hearing the main instrument strain upward to the same quizzical notes plucked over and over again is something no one should have to experience twice. It's that awful. Really.
English drama about a workshy family hanging around their council flat and going down the pub and bickering, mostly. Sometimes Mike Leigh's improv dramas work, sometimes they just dribble on for a bit and then stop. This is one of the dribblers, but it WAS his first film, so he's allowed. Anyway if he'd made it later his budget might never have stretched to the cast; Tim Roth plus Gary Oldman plus Alfred Molina plus Phil Daniels equals a meal at the Ritz for the price of a KFC bargain bucket.
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