Film reviews: Hitchcock | I Give It A Year | Warm Bodies | No | A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman

ALISTAIR Harkness reviews the rest of this week’s film releases

Hitchcock (15)

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston

Star review: * *

THIS superficial, star-studded dramatisation of the making of Psycho doesn’t come close to uncovering why it’s an important film. Instead it takes liberties with both the movie and the man who made it in order to create an insultingly idiotic portrait of Hitchcock that equates creativity with psychosis and speculates wildly on the state of his marriage and its influence on the film.

As Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins also gives a spectacularly lazy performance. Decked out in a fat suit, his face caked in vulcanized rubber, he looks like a Madam Tussauds exhibit that’s been left out in the sun. His voice, meanwhile, sounds like a camp parody of Hannibal Lecter. True, Hopkins is using Hitchcock’s playful public persona as a jumping off point, but even so, what he delivers is nothing but empty pastiche. There’s no subtext; everything the film wants you to think about Hitch is spelled out in the script. The irony of exploring the difficulty of creating something original in a film that’s content to trade so heavily on its association with one of the most famous movies in history seems lost on everyone.

I Give It A Year (15)

Directed by: Dan Mazer

Starring: Rose Byrne, Anna Farris, Simon Baker, Rafe Spall

Star rating: *

AS THE too-obviously mismatched couple who get married just months after believing they’ve fallen in love, Rose Byrne and Rafe Spall are fighting a losing battle in this charmless wedding-themed British rom-com.

Saddled with a faux-edgy script that requires them to be hateful and annoying without providing any convincing insights into why they got together in the first place, there’s no reason to care about why Byrne’s uptight PR executive Nat and Spall’s schlubby novelist Josh are even bothering to give their problematic marriage a year to work.

Consequently, the titular time frame is little more than a specious romcom contrivance designed to inhibit both characters from pursuing their true soulmates. These take the respective forms of a handsome American executive (Simon Baker) who falls for Nat, and an earthy charity worker (a miscast Anna Farris) who used go out with Josh. With writer/director – and frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator – Dan Mazer clearly unable to think of a better way to explore the vicissitudes of marriage than by sticking aesthetically better-matched people in the paths of his protagonists, the schematic end result feels like the product of a fascistic dating algorithm.

Warm Bodies (12A)

Directed by: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Nicolas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Analeigh Tipton

Star rating: * * *

IF GEORGE Romero has taught us one thing it’s that zombies can be a metaphor for just about anything. So it proves with this sweet-natured adaptation of Isaac Marion’s cult novel Warm Bodies, which uses the shuffling, mumbling demeanour of the undead as a nifty parallel for the awkwardness of adolescent first love.

Starring Nicholas Hoult as R, a somewhat sensitive zombie who falls for the still very human Julie (Teresa Palmer) after ingesting her boyfriend’s brains, the film revolves around R’s growing realisation that the pangs of love he’s feeling may actually be bringing him back to life. Though this is gradually expanded into a more general analogical plea for society to slow down and appreciate human relationships, the film, adapted and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, The Wackness), offsets such earnestness by contrasting R’s lucid, self-deprecating interior monologue with his clumsy efforts to win over Julie. Like all of us, he’s much cooler in his head than he is in real life and Hoult smartly plays R as a baffled, hormonal teenage boy who turns into a gibbering wreck around girls. True, the tepid tween-friendly zombie action may let the side down, but for the most part this is a fun take on an overdone genre.

No (15)

Directed by: Pablo Larraín

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers

Star rating: * * * *

PICKING up a deserved Oscar nomination last month, this third film in Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s remarkable series of dramas depicting life under Augusto Pinochet jumps forward in time from the 1970s setting of Tony Manero and Post Mortem to the 1988 referendum that eventually lead to Pinochet’s ousting as the country’s leader.

Homing in specifically on the advertising war that erupted each night on television as both sides of the political divide sought to influence public opinion over whether or not Pinochet’s rule should be extended, the film is a masterful, irony-laced exploration of a country in the throes of an economic and political revolution.

The complexity of the national psyche is embodied brilliantly by Gael García Bernal as René, an advertising executive who has flourished under the capitalist edicts of Pinochet’s regime but who is nevertheless drawn to using his skills in the service of the No campaign favoured by the socialist opposition. On this point Larraín smartly keeps the character’s motivations as murky as the 1980s video-aesthetic he’s deployed to shoot the film. The ambivalent mood that results reflects the way the sacrifices of the few often end up benefitting those who don’t necessarily share their higher ideals.

A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (15)

Directed by: Bill Jones, Ben Timlett, Jeff Simpson

Voices: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Cameron Diaz

Star rating: * * *

LIKE the memoir from which it’s adapted, this animated biopic of the late Monty Python star Graham Chapman takes an unconventional approach to its subject. Narrated by Chapman himself (using audio recordings of the book that Chapman made a few years before his death), it deploys an array of animation styles to take us on the chaotic journey of his life.

Most of the surviving Pythons put in vocal cameos – both as themselves and as major figures in Chapman’s life (Terry Jones and Michael Palin, for instance, play his mum and dad) – but fans shouldn’t go in expecting another trawl through the origins and legacy of the influential comedy troupe. It may have been a key part of Chapman’s life, but it’s only a small part of the film, which focuses more on his efforts to come to terms with both his sexuality and his battle with alcoholism.

It’s the last of these that casts the darkest shadow – a fact that’s reflected in the somber animation styles used to render these segments. His open acceptance of his homosexuality, by contrast, is explored with playfully smutty cartoons that are much more in keeping with this all-round bon vivant’s taste-challenging outlook on life.