(Jason Winer, 2011, USA)
Though supporting roles in films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall acted as an appropriate channel for Russell Brand’s brazen acting style, his abilities at convincing as a leading man in Get Him to the Greek (Marshall’s quasi-sequel) were found somewhat wanting, with Brand given free rein to effectively play heightened versions of himself on the big screen. This sluggish approach is paralleled once again in Arthur, an unwanted remake to the treasured original, which starred ‘cuddly’ Dudley Moore as the alcoholic millionaire and sole heir to his family’s wealth, who falls for the amiable Liza Minelli against his frosty mothers best wishes. Lacking Moore’s charm and affability, Brand is a poor successor to the role of Arthur and turns the character into a one-note, spoilt juvenile delinquent who enjoys throwing his money around and laughing in the face of the recession. Even when he’s supposed to appear drunk, all Brand can do is play it slightly more kinetic and aggravating, with emotions that are devoid of authenticity and sincerity, exacerbated during a cloyingly sentimental sequence in the latter stage of the narrative, which is laughable instead of emotionally resonant.
Given that the original followed a formulaic structure, and had performances from the likes of an Oscar winning John Gielgud which held the film together, this remake brings nothing new to the table and says nothing about excessive expenditure in today’s economic climate; much like last year’s puerile Sex and the City 2, Arthur features characters whose prosperity is untarnished by the suffering world outside their ignorant bubbles. As a rejigged version of Gielgud’s acerbic butler, Helen Mirren, who’s unshifting facial expressions convey a consistent sense of ‘I am so much better than this’, plays Arthur’s long-suffering nanny and mother figure, and is unfortunately saddled with clichéd characterisation and lines that become increasingly more embarrassing as the film goes on. Getting one of Britain’s most cherished actresses to spout lines like ‘wash your winky’ not once, but twice throughout a film is just not funny, neither is boiling the solid acting abilities of Jennifer Garner down so much that her underwritten, bland socialite character is given no room to breathe, where her only memorable sequence sees her pinned to a magnetic bed. Similarly, queen of ‘mumblecore‘ Greta Gerwig and her talent for understatement, previously witnessed in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, is shamelessly taken advantage of, though her effortless charisma is the best thing the film has to offer.
Director Jason Winer, whose minimal repertoire consists of bland TV movies, shows no restraint throughout his film, never allowing the camera to stop moving and let scenes play out on their own steam, instead opting for a quickened pace that mimics the protagonists excitable persona, robbing any potentially heartfelt scenes between Brand and Gerwig of their much needed warmth, and allowing the film to become hurried and tactlessly stuck together. With only a couple of decent one liners to its name, Arthur the film can best be summed up as a perfect accompaniment to Arthur the character; brash, annoying and emotionally shallow, which proves that Russell Brand really has no range when it comes to acting.
- Arthur, 2011. [Film] Directed by Jason Winer. USA: Warner Bros. Pictures.
- Greenberg, 2010. [Film] Directed by Noah Baumbach. USA: Scott Rudin Pictures.
- Sex and the City 2, 2010. [Film] Directed by Michael Patrick King. USA: New Line Cinema.