21 June 2002 | roisinmoriarty-1
Ten out of Ten for Jack & Ben
"Bye Bye Baby" marked what was probably Ben Chaplin's first major role but, working for the brilliantly talented screen writer Jack Rosenthal, he was in good hands. Playing Leo, a naive young Jewish lad reluctantly serving out his time in the navy when Britain still had National Service, his principle companion is a classic black & white photo of Marilyn Monroe pinned to the wall by his bunk. She becomes his sounding board as well as the voice in his head doling out good advice and even keeping him out of trouble when he begins to lose it while on a night out in post-war Germany.
Not surprisingly, considering his background, Leo has a good deal of difficulty accepting his situation in Germany and indeed, in accepting the Germans themselves. He also has a rather muddled love life, his girlfriend back home being a devout Catholic. Chaplin portrays Leo's confused emotions beautifully, interpreting Rosenthal's subtle combination of pathos and humour with skill and sensitivity. It's a striking performance and one that prompted me to look out for his name in future projects. It's for this reason that I'm delighted that he's comes so far and made such a name for himself. I've known for ten years that he's always had star quality so it's great to see that others have taken note.
Rosenthal, who cut his teeth on very early episodes of "Coronation Street", has built up a solid reputation as one of the finest writers to come out of Britain. Producing faultless scripts for everything from cute sit-coms ("The Lovers") to major movies ("Yentl"), he never fails to impress and, try as I might, I cannot think of a single screenplay that is anything less than excellent. That may sound like so much hyperbole but if you've seen as many example of his work as I have then I'd be quite surprised is you disagreed (unless you're a struggling screen writer, in which case it's probably just sour grapes ;-) This is a man who understands human quirks and emotions and has a rare gift for transferring them into the written word and onto film. He knows when to be funny and when to be serious and is brilliant at combining the two so that both can often surprise you, leaving you with a lump in your throat one minute and laughing the next. There are several excellent examples of this in "Bye Bye Baby", making for a drama that has never a dull moment, containing characters you genuinely care about, played by actors who seem to know just how to make the best of the words and situations that they're so lucky to have been given by Jack Rosenthal.
Oh, and Marilyn Monroe as Jiminy Cricket to Leo's Pinocchio? A touch of pure magic that'll leave you with a huge smile on your face.