Louis Wain: The Electric Life Cert: 12A, 1hr 51mins
Licorice Pizza Cert: 15, 2hrs 13mins
Humans Cert: 15, 1hr 48mins
Let me be honest, I’d never heard of Louis Wain, but as I watched Louis Wain: The Electric Life I realised I did recognise his art.
Turns out he’s the chap who did all those drawings and paintings of cats, often with big, supposedly adorable eyes, often engaged in distinctly human-like activities. Let’s be real, they were never my favorite.
This could be why it took so long to get used to the subtle charms in this highly-energetic biopic.
Whatever you think of Louis Wain’s cat pics, it’s all a bit full-on, all a bit relentless, driven ever forward by big performances from Benedict Cumberbatch (above) as Wain
Whatever you think of Wain’s cat pics – and they do have their admirers – it’s all a bit full-on, all a bit relentless, driven ever forward by a knowing narration and big performances by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Wain, and Andrea Riseborough as his eldest sister.
Will Sharpe, the skilled actor, is behind the camera to direct and cowrite.
Sometimes he uses feline subtitles and animated visions for fantasy animals one-part human, one-part cat.
His aim is to convey some of the chaos, confusion and artistic creativity of Wain’s restless mind in a visual and cinematic way, but there’s a constant danger of being off-putting in the well-intentioned process.
It’s worth watching for the supporting roles, including Claire Foy, above, with Cumberbatch, as Wain’s energetic and older governess.
The underlying story, however, of the eccentric, Victorian-era artist who today might be described as ‘on the spectrum’ or ‘neuro-diverse’ is an interesting one and, at times, really rather moving.
It’s a wonderful film with great supporting roles, including Claire Foy playing the young, spirited, but older, governess Wain fell in love with and Toby Jones as Toby Jones the quietly supportive editor of the Illustrated London News.
So it’s not all cats, although there are a lot of them, particularly in the second half as the unworldly Wain begins to pay for his financial naivety and the lifelong challenge of providing financial support for his widowed mother and five unmarried sisters threatens to overwhelm him.
As for the ‘electrical life’ of the title, let’s just say Wain took an artist’s view of this newly harnessed power source rather than a physicist’s and was definitely no Faraday or Tesla. Then again, they probably couldn’t paint cats.
Paul Thomas Anderson films are loved by both the arthouse community and by award juries. But, sometimes, it is difficult to get a wider audience.
However Licorice Pizza (a title at least partially borrowed from an old Californian record-shop chain) is his most accessible for years, possibly since Boogie Nights – the film that first made him famous – way back in 1997.
Licorice Pizza’s tone and pace suffer a little as Bradley Cooper and Sean Penn (above), muscle in as more predatory, older men
It may share the same 1970s setting but Licorice Pizza is a whole lot more wholesome (Boogie Nights, you may recall, was set against the sleazy background of the porn business) dealing, as it does, with first love, namely that between Gary (Cooper Hoffman) a precocious, 15-year-old high-school student and former child actor, and Alana (Alana Haim), a 25-year-old photographer’s assistant.
He bravely asks her out on a date when she’s helping with the taking of his school photograph. More brave, she turns up.
The film has two key points to make. The film has an adorable, if slightly quirky quality that will make you smile and get out of your way to start a new year.
The second is that Haim – the youngest of the three sisters making up the music group of that name – is absolutely brilliant as the slightly directionless twentysomething who doesn’t know quite why she got involved with Gary and his madcap entrepreneurial schemes but determines to stick along for the ride.
Another thing you may like to learn is that Hoffman is the child of Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is a very touching story. The pace and tone also suffer as Bradley Cooper (and Sean Penn) push for their place as more predatory, older men.
Nevertheless, with a fabulous soundtrack too, it’s highly recommended.
Humans, by contrast, is distinctly hard work, a testing ‘mumble-core’ drama adapted from a single-act stage play by Stephen Karam.
The cast includes Richard Jenkins and Amy Schumer (above), and while it’s claustrophobic and mildly scary, it’s also not nearly as groundbreaking as it thinks it is
As three generations of a family gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in a dark, empty and seriously dilapidated New York apartment, even darker secrets slowly begin to emerge…
The cast includes Richard Jenkins and Amy Schumer, and while it’s claustrophobic and mildly scary, it’s also not nearly as groundbreaking as it thinks it is.