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A drama centered on the relationship between Elliot Graham (Sir Michael Gambon), a strange and wealthy Londoner, and Joe Dix (Danny Lee Wynter), a teenager who takes care of an empty house Elliot owns.
Empty streets, empty film
Michael Gambon is one of Britain's finest actors, and Stephen Poliakoff one of our more interesting dramatists; but rubbish is rubbish, and sadly, 'Joe's Palace' is not very good. Polliakoff has for a long time been interested in the aesthetics of aristocracy (and concordantly sympathetic to the beautiful), but in this film, he indulges these sentiments in the absence of any meaningful context. A reclusive billionaire does nothing with his life because he is consumed by what he fears his father might have done, although he apparently has no idea what this might have been; several historians fail to discover anything, but the girl from the local deli proves a better researcher than them and discovers that the father had been sympathetic to Nazi values; despite having always assumed that his Dad had been a Nazi collaborator anyway, this persuades the billionaire to think of suicide, although not very hard. Then he gives away a tiny proportion of his wealth (some things his father has stolen) and lives happily every after. Meanwhile, he employs a collection of social misfits (a familiar Poliakoff theme) to staff a huge London house he keeps empty; one of them, Joe, a young man with learning difficulties, is patronised by everyone telling him "what a bright boy" he is and watches silently everything that happens, commenting innanely in his diary but somehow becoming everyone's confident. A slick politician (played by Rupert Penry-Jones, who invests his lines with exaggerated faux-earnestness) and his beautiful mistress (plated by Kelly Reily, who emotes breathlessly but is also unconvincing), also feature for little apparent reason. Meanwhile, everywhere is empty: not just the house, but the streets and parks of London; in every scene, the background is blank, so the Polliakoff can maintain his trademark atmospherics, although you'll never see real life looking like this. The film as whole, meanwhile, is self-important but no less empty, devoid of real meaning and life, with no real dialogue (a scattering of monologues substitute for it) and, criminally for a film starring Gambon, desperately dull.
- Nov 8, 2007
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