13 September 2012 | surlaroute
Cuts through the clichés with fantastic performance and style
"Our life is a series of moments
let them go
I don't need to go into my decreasing expectation of Dakota Fanning movies as I tend to do it with each of her movies since around 2007
needless to say, I likely wouldn't have been rushing to see this one – which from the outside appears as yet another not-even-Oscar-baiting cancer pity porn story (if you'll excuse the extreme shorthand) with the added "oh no
" factor of Fanning doing her best English accent to boot*. But I got free tickets, and who was I to pass up my first chance to see one of my (despite everything, still) favourite actresses on the big screen for the first time since 2005?
The by-the-numbers story here has Fanning as Tessa, who is dying of leukaemia, has passed the point of expecting treatment to help, and wants to get a few things done before she goes. This in itself, of course, does not an enriching 90 minutes make (not for me, anyway). But while there's certainly a few bad clichés of this kind of story in here (and one particularly awful moment – I shall just say "sweetcorn"
), the reason Now Is Good continued to pull me in is because of this light of a character at its core.
As I said I was worried I'd be adding this movie to a long list of recent Dakota Fanning movies (okay, mainly the Twilight movies) that lead me to ask, frustrated, "what are you doing, Dakota?" – but you can see why she was drawn to this one, despite any of its leanings toward cliché. Tessa responds to the generic way the world usually deals with terminal illness in the same way I always imagine I would (yes – I'll it admit it – I imagine it enough to be able to say such a thing, lol, now who's pitying?), and I connected to her fast – the way her face lights up the moment she spots a hint of mischief in a person, such as when her brother asks at the breakfast table (much to their father's dismay), "when Tessa dies can we go on holiday?" or how she talks back to her doctor ("Good girl." "Would you like to slap my rump?
then stop talking to me like a horse
") She really doesn't want any pity, for herself or anyone (as she says to her love towards the end, "Don't you dare expect me to feel sorry for you because you get left behind, don't you f-ing dare!") but she certainly doesn't deny the creeping darkness of her imminent death either.
There's a ropey segment in which Tessa and her friend go on an attempted crime spree in a shopping centre that smacks awfully of a teen movie cliché I thought long-since past, and the aforementioned unbelievable attempt to cut through one of the movie's most horrific glimpses of disease with the comedy of "sweetcorn" – but even these lows are ultimately countered by terrific performance, not just from Fanning but from the support cast including Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams (both of whom, post-sweetcorn scene, share the best non-Fanning scene in the movie, as she asks him, "Can I stay?"). There are lesser clichés that also ring less hokey for the same reasons, such as Fanning enjoying an air tunnel type ride (her face in this scene is too beautiful to even consider being cynical), a stolen kiss under fireworks, and the horses that ride past at the end – but by that point I was so in love with Tessa they could have played in "This Woman's Work" or "Fields of Gold" over such imagery and still not offended me
it really is her most unforgettable role since Man on Fire for me.
* the accent work is fantastic, if you must know – I really didn't want to mention it in my review though, because everybody will
it's the flawless, clipped, but not necessarily authentic to the character, kind most American actresses manage
but like those minor clichés, by around midway it's the last thing on your mind.
** PS. There's some interesting use of Nine Lives footage (at least I think it's that movie), of a younger Fanning climbing a tree, that I just found interesting and felt worth mentioning – it was slightly jarring to me but I imagine even fewer people saw that movie than will see this one lol. At least it connects to something in this movie, anyway, another beautiful scene of tree climbing. ** EDIT I asked the director about this and he said they shot all of the stuff at the end themselves so I guess I was wrong, it just looked very familiar to me :)