Tag Archives: Richard E. Grant

Saltburn-2023

Saltburn-2023

Director Emerald Fennell

Starring Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike

Scott’s Review #1,417

Reviewed January 19, 2024

Grade: A

Emerald Fennell, as a director (she also acts) is someone to keep a close eye on.  With only her second film, Saltburn (2023), she has quickly drawn comparisons to Darren Aronofsky and Yorgos Lanthimos by creating wickedly daring comedies rife with sharp dialogue and peculiar tastes.

Okay, I’m drawing those comparisons on my own.

The point is that she creates films that are not necessarily for mainstream audiences but will satisfy the peculiar cravings of those seeking left-of-center and hard-to-predict films.

She also wrote the screenplay.

Those wary of hard-to-digest scenes involving blood, sex, nudity, and other depravities, be forewarned.

Her first film was the revenge-themed and Academy Award-winning Promising Young Woman (2020) starring Carey Mulligan who makes a return appearance in Saltburn.

This time out Fennell offers us a beautifully daring story centering around privilege, jealousy, and desire. The film offers unlikable characters with enough twists and turns to keep the audience off guard and confused as to who to root for or against.

Will the characters we hate stay hated? If this sounds vague it’s because the film is filled with mystery.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is an awkward young man struggling to find his place at Oxford University the recipient of a scholarship for those with financial hardships. His mother is a recovering drug addict and his father is dead.

Unpopular, he finds himself drawn to the charming and handsome Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who also happens to be filthy rich. Felix is the envy of almost everyone as they strive to be his friend or bedfellow.

After Oliver does Felix a favor, they become buddies, and Felix unexpectedly¬†invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer vacation.

The lavish Oxford University is grandiose and scholarly with lots of preppy and wealthy intellectuals. As the snobs partake in parties and wild games Oliver is looked down on by everyone but Felix. The spoiled students are not meant for the audience to like.

I love how Fennell incorporates legions of insecurities suffered by the have-nots struggling to fit in which is a common theme of hers. The only kid willing to give Oliver the time of day is a creepy Jeffrey Dahmer type.

Anyone familiar with cliques on college campuses will be firmly in Oliver’s corner. He’s a good kid after all, who has been dealt a struggling hand at life, what with his parent’s issues and all.

The shit hits the fan when Oliver arrives at Saltburn which makes Oxford seem minimal in comparison. Manicured and sprawling lawns complete with a center maze are overwhelming to Oliver to say nothing of the group of oddballs that make up the family and staff.

Suddenly though, everything becomes weird, and the tone of the film shifts.

The final forty-five minutes are riveting with unexpected events transpiring after a wild party to celebrate Oliver’s birthday. Felix, his sister, and their parents are involved in shenanigans that make the viewers question everything they’ve seen thus far.

Mulligan doesn’t have much to do in Saltburn. Her role amounts to little more than a cameo which would be more irritating if the other characters weren’t so richly written.

Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant sizzle as aristocratic types oblivious to everyone else and their wealthy surroundings. It’s almost as if they assume everyone lives this well.

The sexual scenes of desire are breathtaking and startlingly explicit. In one scene, two characters make out with bloody mouths and in another, one character masturbates in a bathtub while another character spies on him and lustfully licks the faucet a few minutes later.

The best acting performance belongs to Keoghan who delivers a complex and spirited character who we’re not sure what will do next or sometimes why. He possesses an innocent yet creepy veneer which is tough to figure out.

His naked dance sequence is one of the wildest in cinema history.

Fennell hits another grand slam with the eerie yet fascinating Saltburn (2023), a delicious examination of the class system. The mixture of the groveling poor with the callous rich makes for a brilliant story.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.

The Player-1992

The Player-1992

Director Robert Altman

Starring Tim Robbins, Peter Gallagher

Scott’s Review #601

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: A

The Player (1992) ranks up there with other Robert Altman classics such as Gosford Park (2001), Nashville (1975), and Short Cuts (1993).

The film is an excellent piece of Hollywood satire and centers around a jaded movie executive, played by Tim Robbins, who does an incredible job with his role.

Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a man with no scruples. Feeling usurped by a younger executive, played by Peter Gallagher, as well as receiving death threats, he goes on the hunt for the person he feels responsible for, which leads to murder.

The audience is unsure whether to love or hate Mill, thanks to Robbin’s performance. He is snarky, but also vulnerable and a tad sympathetic.

The film contains a slew of real Hollywood celebrities (Cher, Malcolm McDowell, Bruce Willis) playing themselves and is largely improvised (as many of Altman’s films are).

Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett star as odd police detectives.

The plot is nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s the realness and the direction that make this movie a must-see, especially for Robert Altman fans.

The Player (1992) is a hidden gem.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Robert Altman, Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Best Film Editing

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Feature (won)

Gosford Park-2001

Gosford Park-2001

Director Robert Altman

Starring Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe

Top 100 Films #68

Scott’s Review #350

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Somewhere between the brilliant PBS series of the 1970s and the ultra-modern cool of Downton Abbey (also PBS) lies the masterpiece that is Robert Altman’s 2001 gem, Gosford Park.

Ironic is that the creator, writer, and executive producer of Downtown Abbey, Julian Fellowes, wrote the screenplay of Gosford Park.

No wonder, combined with Altman’s direction, they created genius.

The period is 1932 and the wealthy, along with their servants, flock to the magnificent estate of Gosford Park, a grand English country home. The guests include both Americans and Brits and everyone is gathered for a shooting weekend- foreshadowing if ever there was.

Following a dinner party, a murder occurs and the remainder of the film follows the subsequent police investigation, and the perspectives of the guests and the servants as a whodunit ensues.

Many of the character’s lives unravel as secrets are exposed.

Sir William, the murder victim, is a powerful industrialist. After he announces he will withdraw an investment, the ramifications affect many of the guests so that the set-up is spelled out for the audience.

At the risk of seemingly nothing more than a plot device- it is so much more than that.

During a pheasant shoot, Sir William receives a minor wound thanks to a stray birdshot- is this intentional or merely an accident? When Sir William meets his fate that evening, the potential suspects pile up.

If there are two compelling aspects to a great film, they are a good old-fashioned whodunit and an enormous cast, all potential suspects.

What makes Gosford Park exceptional is that every character is interesting in some way and all are written well.

Secrets abound for miles in this film and are revealed deliciously. Torrid affairs, sexuality secrets, and blackmail abound as revelations make their way to the surface and Altman knows exactly how to cast doubt or suspicion on many of his characters.

The compelling relationship between American film producer Morris Weissman and his valet, Henry Denton (Ryan Phillipe), along with the domineering head housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren) are my favorite characters and dynamics.

How clever that Maggie Smith would play similar roles as stuffy aristocrats in both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey.

Rich in texture is the balancing between the haves and the have-nots and how those characters mix (sometimes in secret rendezvous!)

Typical of Altman films, the character dialogue commonly overlaps, and the actors largely improvise the script. In addition to being an actor’s dream, this quality gives a dash of realism to his films and Gosford Park is no exception.

Since there are so many characters and so many plots and sub-plots going on at once, my recommendation is to watch the film at least twice to fully comprehend the layers of the goings-on.

Gosford Park (2001) will become more and more appreciated.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Picture, Best Director-Robert Altman, Best Supporting Actress-Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen/Original Screenplay (won), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design