Reviews - Major Releases


Film Review: Arthur Newman

Colin Firth and Emily Blunt play dress-up in sweet, semi-romantic road trip.

April 26, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375878-Arthur_Newman_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

A man living in quiet desperation and a woman whose suffering is a good deal less inconspicuous try to jettison unwanted identities in Arthur Newman, a road film that (thankfully) has less to do with golf than its synopsis might suggest. Landing leads Colin Firth and Emily Blunt helps the commercial prospects of director Dante Ariola's feature debut, and Firth makes a convincing dive into the title character's psyche; some plot elements may give critics pause, but for a not-quite romance its commercial prospects are solid.

Firth's title character is created before our eyes: Fuddy-duddy Fed Ex employee Wallace Avery, judging his life a failure, stages his death and drives off in a just-bought convertible practicing convincing ways of saying "Hey. I'm Arthur Newman." Having been a promising golfer before choking on his first PGA tour, he intends to start a new life as a golf pro in Terre Haute. Not as romantic as a new identity on a Caribbean beach, perhaps, but it's probably as appealing a fantasy as a Wallace Avery can project.

At the first motel on his route north, Arthur rescues a woman (Blunt) who has OD'ed on cough syrup after a botched attempt to steal somebody's car. Charlotte Fitzgerald is a mess, and is using her twin Michaela's ID for reasons less concrete than Arthur's: Living her own life simply seems too fraught for her. Needing someone capable of handling daily life, Charlotte decides to accompany Arthur.

Teasingly, Charlotte introduces Arthur to a new game: As they travel, they target happy couples and break into their homes when nobody's around. They play dress-up, adopt the residents' identities, and make out. The conceit is an ingenious way around the difference in the characters' ages and backgrounds: Instead of trying to convince us this beautiful young woman would be attracted to a deeply square older man, screenwriter Becky Johnston invents a scenario in which sleeping with him is a kind of rejection of both their unwanted identities.

Ariola brings out the sweetness of the game, though, especially in the first outing: Having targeted two senior citizens who have just gotten married, Charlotte affects gently formal Southernisms while asking her imaginary, elderly groom to lie down beside her. Blunt plays the scene beautifully, leaving ample room for ambiguity; at the same time, it's clear that Arthur will be playing this game for real, no matter whose wardrobe he's raiding.

In addition to the growing possibility that Arthur will get his heart broken, there's the issue of the cash—the bag full of money he's funding this self-reinvention with, and which Charlotte spots early on in their time together. Having introduced her as a thief, the film isn't too heavy-handed with hints that she might run off with the bag, though the danger never fades.

The movie doesn't even care where all that dough came from, and is better off that way. If Arthur had stolen it from work, say, we'd have to deal with police on the couple's trail and the constant worry that getting caught having sex in a stranger's bed might lead to more than a red face and a trespassing charge. For the hero of Arthur Newman, who's already carrying the weight of a failed career, marriage and fatherhood, the stakes are high enough already.
The Hollywood Reporter



Film Review: Arthur Newman

Colin Firth and Emily Blunt play dress-up in sweet, semi-romantic road trip.

April 26, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375878-Arthur_Newman_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

A man living in quiet desperation and a woman whose suffering is a good deal less inconspicuous try to jettison unwanted identities in Arthur Newman, a road film that (thankfully) has less to do with golf than its synopsis might suggest. Landing leads Colin Firth and Emily Blunt helps the commercial prospects of director Dante Ariola's feature debut, and Firth makes a convincing dive into the title character's psyche; some plot elements may give critics pause, but for a not-quite romance its commercial prospects are solid.

Firth's title character is created before our eyes: Fuddy-duddy Fed Ex employee Wallace Avery, judging his life a failure, stages his death and drives off in a just-bought convertible practicing convincing ways of saying "Hey. I'm Arthur Newman." Having been a promising golfer before choking on his first PGA tour, he intends to start a new life as a golf pro in Terre Haute. Not as romantic as a new identity on a Caribbean beach, perhaps, but it's probably as appealing a fantasy as a Wallace Avery can project.

At the first motel on his route north, Arthur rescues a woman (Blunt) who has OD'ed on cough syrup after a botched attempt to steal somebody's car. Charlotte Fitzgerald is a mess, and is using her twin Michaela's ID for reasons less concrete than Arthur's: Living her own life simply seems too fraught for her. Needing someone capable of handling daily life, Charlotte decides to accompany Arthur.

Teasingly, Charlotte introduces Arthur to a new game: As they travel, they target happy couples and break into their homes when nobody's around. They play dress-up, adopt the residents' identities, and make out. The conceit is an ingenious way around the difference in the characters' ages and backgrounds: Instead of trying to convince us this beautiful young woman would be attracted to a deeply square older man, screenwriter Becky Johnston invents a scenario in which sleeping with him is a kind of rejection of both their unwanted identities.

Ariola brings out the sweetness of the game, though, especially in the first outing: Having targeted two senior citizens who have just gotten married, Charlotte affects gently formal Southernisms while asking her imaginary, elderly groom to lie down beside her. Blunt plays the scene beautifully, leaving ample room for ambiguity; at the same time, it's clear that Arthur will be playing this game for real, no matter whose wardrobe he's raiding.

In addition to the growing possibility that Arthur will get his heart broken, there's the issue of the cash—the bag full of money he's funding this self-reinvention with, and which Charlotte spots early on in their time together. Having introduced her as a thief, the film isn't too heavy-handed with hints that she might run off with the bag, though the danger never fades.

The movie doesn't even care where all that dough came from, and is better off that way. If Arthur had stolen it from work, say, we'd have to deal with police on the couple's trail and the constant worry that getting caught having sex in a stranger's bed might lead to more than a red face and a trespassing charge. For the hero of Arthur Newman, who's already carrying the weight of a failed career, marriage and fatherhood, the stakes are high enough already.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Major Releases

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Film Review: Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Latest rollicking entry in the sturdy series (installments one and two together hit a billion dollars in grosses) again has natural and historic wonders come alive at night to wreak havoc. But it’s largely kids’ stuff. More »

The Interview
Film Review: The Interview

If you’re curious, the movie that has North Korea so upset is genuinely amusing, if flawed in the length department. More »

Annie review
Film Review: Annie

Here’s an updated Annie for today’s entitled, tech-savvy and racially diverse generation of tweens who can easily relate to the new Annie’s love of luxurious toys. Their parents and other adults may miss the sweet innocence of the original, but they won’t be entirely bored by this frenetic new version of her classic story. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Annie review
Film Review: Annie

Here’s an updated Annie for today’s entitled, tech-savvy and racially diverse generation of tweens who can easily relate to the new Annie’s love of luxurious toys. Their parents and other adults may miss the sweet innocence of the original, but they won’t be entirely bored by this frenetic new version of her classic story. More »

The H obbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Film Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

After rewriting the rules for modern fantasy cinema, for the better and worse, Peter Jackson’s six-film Tolkien saga slams, bangs and shudders to a long-overdue conclusion. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here