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Posts Tagged ‘based on real life’

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This film is loosely based on the life of Eugene Allen, who served as a butler in the White House, working for seven Presidents. In this film, Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) serves eight Presidents, against a backdrop of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War, among other famous American events. Quite simply, it is an amazing and moving film, in part due to the uniformly brilliant cast. Forest Whitaker never disappoints, and Oprah Winfrey is superb as his wife Gloria. There are some odd casting choices – I couldn’t imagine John Cusack playing Nixon I heard that he was in that role – but it worked. The film combines one man’s personal journey, walking a fine line between supporting his oldest son, who is determined to fight for equal rights, no matter what the cost; and working at the White House, where such subversiveness is frowned upon. Amongst the Presidents he works for are JFK, the aforementioned Nixon, and Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman). The film shows how the job takes it’s toll on Gaines’s family and causes conflicting ideals in his mind.

I loved it – go watch it, I don’t think you will be disappointed!

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Lee Daniels

Writers: Danny Strong, Wil Haygood

Main cast: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr, Clarence Williams III, David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, James Marsden

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This film is very loosely based on the life of Jane Austen, prior to her becoming a successful author.  Jane (Anne Hathaway), whose mother wants her to marry a rich man, meets and falls for penniless lawyer Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy).  Their relationship inspires her writing, and in particular, her novel Pride and Prejudice (called here by its original title of First Impressions).

If you are looking for a biography of Jane Austen, this film is not it.  In fact, the real Jane only referred to Tom Lefroy in a couple of letters to her older sister Cassandra, so this film merely seems to take that as a jumping off point, from which to create a love story.  The subject of the story could just as easily have been a fictional character, but I imagine that to make it about Jane Austen drew in fans of the author (it’s what made me want to watch it).

Although it received quite bad reviews, I did enjoy the film for what it was.  Anne Hathaway is an unusual choice to play Jane Austen, but I thought she did well, and her accent was convincing; had I not known that she is American, I would have believed she was English based on this film.  James McAvoy was also very good as Tom Lefroy, and I thought the two of them had good chemistry.  The supporting cast consists of several well known names, including Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Laurence Fox, James Cromwell and Anna Maxwell Martin – unfortunately all of them were somewhat under-used, but made the most of their parts.

I found it interesting that the first part of the film mirrored somewhat the plot of Pride and Prejudice – a headstrong and intelligent girl is determined to marry for love, while her mother implores her to marry a rich man, who can support her and her family.  Indeed, Jane is portrayed very much as a Lizzie Bennet type character, and there were also some witty lines and comic scenes.

The second part of the film is more dramatic, and anyone who knows much about Jane Austen’s life, will know whether or not the romance with Lefroy works out.  I thought the ending was a bit too long, and the film could have ended about 30 minutes earlier, but all the same, it tied up all the loose ends nicely.

Overall, an enjoyable film – if you are a Jane Austen fan, approach with caution and be aware that it is very much an imagined version of this part of Jane’s life, but if you are okay with that, then give it a watch.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Julian Jarrold

Producers: Jeff Abberley, Julia Blackman, Nicole Finnan, Tim Haslam, Joanna Anderson, Robert Bernstein, Graham Broadbent, Noelette Buckley, James Flynn, Morgan O’Sullivan, Douglas Rae, James Saynor

Writers: Jane Austen (letters), Kevin Hood, Sarah Williams

Main cast: Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Laurence Fox, James Cromwell, Ian Richardson, Anna Maxwell Martin, Lucy Cohu, Joe Anderson

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This television movie is based on the real life story of Jennifer Corbin, wife of dentist Bart Corbin.  Jennifer was killed in an apparent suicide, but her sister Heather is convinced that Bart murdered her.  As events unfold, the truth about the Corbins’ marriage is revealed in flashback, and shows that Jennifer was having an internet affair, while Bart cannot deal with rejection.  It is only through Heather’s determination, and the tenacity of the investigating detectives that the truth is finally revealed.

I accept that this film does not break any new boundaries, and in many ways is a typical ‘Lifetime’ movie.  However, the great performances of the cast elevate it to much better than average.  Rob Lowe is such a talented, versatile actor, and here he plays the charming but controlling Corbin to perfection.  Lauren Holly also does a great job as Jennifer’s sister Heather, and Yannick Bisson (who I adore from TV’s Murdoch Mysteries) puts in a nice supporting performance as Bart’s brother Bobby.  Detective Roche, the lead detective in the investigation is well played by Michelle Hurd.  Jennifer herself is played by Stefanie von Pfetten.  She was a new face to me, but handled the part of the troubled Jennifer very well.

The story starts with Jennifer’s death, and all evidence points to suicide.  Having no knowledge of the actual tragic events behind this film, I was not sure whether in fact she had killed herself, or if as her sister suspected, she had been murdered – and if she had been murdered, then who was responsible?

Overall, I would say the film is engaging and certainly very watchable.  I would definitely recommend it to fans of Rob Lowe – it may not be his most popular or well-known role, but as always, he gives it everything, and is very convincing.

Year of release: 2009

Director: Norma Bailey

Producers: Scott W. Anderson, Stanley M. Brookes, Damian Ganczewski, Juliette Hagopian, Jim Head, Nicholas Tabarrok

Writers: Ann Rule (book), Fab Filippo, Donald Martin, Adam Till

Main cast: Rob Lowe, Lauren Holly, Michelle Hurd, Stefanie von Pfetten, Yannick Bisson, Mary Ashton, Marc Bendavid

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In Edinburgh in 1828, several murders were committed by Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare, two grave robbers turned murderers, who sold the bodies of their victims to Doctor Knox, a respected doctor who gave lectures on anatomy.  This might seem like an odd subject for a comedy, but it nevertheless forms the basis of this film starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis as the title characters.

The film is a highly fictionalised account of what took place, and depicts Burke and Hare as two bumblers, who seem to stumble upon their money-making scheme almost by accident, after previous schemes and scams failed to prove profitable.  It must be quite a challenge to take two spree killers, who murdered people purely for profit, and make them likeable characters on screen.  Their crimes were obviously inexcusable, but the film is clearly not meant to be taken seriously, and with Pegg and Serkis, the characters were interesting and funny to watch.  Pegg played Burke as a romantic, who did what he did for love (to fund a performance of Macbeth that his aspiring actress girlfriend was appearing in), while Serkis played Hare as the more nefarious of the two.  Both actors – but especially Serkis – were brilliant, and a supporting cast including Ronnie Corbett, Isla Fisher, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry and Jessica Hynes doesn’t exactly hurt matters.

It is quite weird to reconcile heinous crimes with comedy entertainment, but somehow it all works, and there is a particularly nice shot at the very end of the film, showing the real-life skeleton of Burke, which is now at Edinburgh University Museum.  There were very mixed reviews of this film when it came out, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Well worth a watch.

Year of release: 2010

Director: John Landis

Producers: James Atherton, Paul Brett, Jan Pace, Tim Smith, Alexandra Ferguson, James Spring, Barnaby Thompson

Writers: Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft

Main cast: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Smiley, Tim Curry, Isla Fisher, Jessica Hynes, Ronnie Corbett

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Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s famous collaboration Evita, which charts the life of Eva Peron, first lady of Argentina, until her premature death in 1952.  In this production, Madalena Alberto plays the eponymous heroine, with Marti Pellow talking on the role of Che.  The songs are well known and include Another Suitcase, Another Hall; On This Night of a Thousand Stars, Buenos Aires, You Must Love Me, and of course Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.  They all sounded fantastic, due to the incredible talent of the cast and the orchestra.  Pellow, who actually takes the largest role, and who is on stage almost all of the time, as part cynical observer, part narrator, was charismatic and perfect for the role of Che.

Eva’s life is covered with big leaps from era to era – if it was”t based on a true story, you might hardly believe it – and the way that Eva visibly aged throughout the show, from her time as a teenager with high hopes, to the girlfriend then wife of Juan Person – was very well done.

The famous balcony scene was beautifully done, and brought tears to my eyes ( and in fact, there were several audience members wiping away tears at the extremely emotional end scenes).

Having heard and read reviews, I went into the show with high expectations – and they were exceeded in every single way.  My sole regret is that I did not get tickets for another performance of this show, because it was truly wonderful from start to finish.

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Click here for my review of the 2017 production of Evita.

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James Stewart is terrific in this 1948 documentary-style drama.  He plays journalist Jim McNeal, who is sent to cover a story of a man who has been in prison for eleven years, for murdering a policeman found guilty – on the testimony of just one eyewitness (despite two other witnesses saying that he was not the killer).  The film is based on the the true story of Joseph Majczek, although here his name is changed to Frank Wiecek.

Initially, McNeal is sceptical and thinks that Wiecek is probably guilty, and covers the story purely because his editor )Lee J. Cobb) wants him to.  However, as he uncovers more about what happened, McNeal starts to believe that the man is innocent and becomes determined to try and prove it.

The documentary-style really works, with a voiceover – which isn’t overused and therefore isn’t intrusive – giving salient facts to the viewer, and showing the action through McNeal’s eyes.

This is the sort of role that James Stewart was perfect for – a crusader for truth – and he is just wonderful.  He always has an immense likability, which means that it doesn’t matter if occasionally his character is irascible…and we like him for his tenacity.

The supporting cast are great too – especially Lee J. Cobb as McNeals boss Brian Kelly, and Kasia Orzazewski as Weicek’s mother.

I kind of guessed how things would turn out, despite not knowing the outcome of the real story at the time – and I was right – but nonetheless I found myself silently cheering McNeal and hoping that he would find the much needed proof of innocence.

Definitely an enjoyable film – exciting not because of action – but because of the viewer’s desire to see justice done.  It’s not one of James Stewart’s most popular films, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

Year of release: 1948

Director: Henry Hathaway

Writers: Jerome Cady, Jay Dratler, Leonard Hoffman, Quentin Reynolds, James P. McGuire (articles), Jack McPhaul (articles)

Main cast: James Stewart, Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, Betty Garde

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