5 April 2002 | DannyBoy-17
Excellent snapshot of a group of mates
You know, when I saw this film, there were maybe seven people in the huge theatre at Loews Outer Circle DC. It was kind of disconcerting. I mean, who could blame people -- the film got no billboards or even advertisements, and I only heard about it through reviews in the paper. But this one's a keeper: last time you had Caine & Hoskins working like this was Neil Jordan's crime drama "Mona Lisa." It's great to see them reunite.
This is really an ensemble film, with great direction and great editing as well. The flashbacks are very well placed, so you don't get a sense of distraction as much as clarification as the filkm goes on. And the filmmakers wisely decide to use visual cues for the memories, instead of arbitrary looks back at the past.
I can say after seeing this film, I hope that I can end my life with the same kind of buddies as Jack Dodds (withou' o' co'se the necessi'y o' ge'in sloshed every nigh'.) The ensemble really works well off each other -- Ray Winstone, who was nearly incomprehensible in Sexy Beast, here shows a bit more substance as Jack's wayward but successful son. Helen Mirren pulls in a much more vulnerable performance than usual as Jack's wife (and the woman who played her as a young woman is stunning.) Tom Courtenay and David Hemmings provide a nice contrast as the proper undertaker Vic, and the drunken ex-boxer Lenny, yet you can see how they would both appeal to a guy like Jack, a lover of life.
Of course, for reasons I don't know if I'll ever get, Hoskins is the anchor. I've watched him for many years, playing brutes and sidekicks, mobsters, and fathers, at times playing the Irish, the Australian, the English, or the Italian-American. He has way of blending in and winning your attention. He can be brash, idiotic, cruel, or sweet, wise, and bold, but either way you kind of root for the guy. You can always seem to see his wheels turning just by facial expressions. The guy might never get an Oscar, but his performances are almost always memorable.
The young actors all convincingly match their older counterparts,a and I found myself watching the way the young Vic went about his medical work and swing dancing and wondering if I'd be lucky enough to end up that way, as Jack says, "having it figured out."
The ultimate message of the film is as simple and yet profoundly human as the story itself: ending your life is easy, it's the carryin' on that's hard. That's not to say that life is meaningless or awful, but just that you've got to put your heart into it, as Schepisi himself has done here. "Last Orders" and "Lantana" are two of the best unknown films out there right now. Check 'em out.