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singles

Set in Seattle in the grunge era of the early 1990s, Singles is a romantic comedy about a number of 20-somethings, many of whom live in the same apartment block, and their various relationships and entanglements.

There’s Janet (Bridget Fonda), a coffee stop Barista, who is in love with Cliff (Matt Dillon), lead singer of a grunge band which is far bigger in his mind than in reality. Then there’s Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who meets Steve (Campbell Scott), who has just sworn off relationships to concentrate on his career.

This film is now a shocking 24 years old! However, it still feels totally watchable and the characters are completely relatable. Most viewers will be familiar with the different games people wittingly or unwittingly play when they meet someone new, and the heartache of discovering that someone is not who you thought they were. Linda for example tells her best friend how happy she is to have met someone who isn’t playing any kind of angle, at precisely the same time as Steve is asking his friends exactly how he should play things with Linda!

There’s more than comedy here though – a completely unexpected development in Steve and Linda’s relationship hits them hard, only for a sudden and unforeseeable event to happen while they are coming to terms with their situation (fear of giving away spoilers prevents me from giving more details).

The acting is great – Kyra Sedgwick and (in particular) Bridget Fonda are believable and likeable. Matt Dillon provides a fair amount of comedy as the deluded wannabe rock star, and Campbell Scott is perfectly cast as Steve – he strikes the perfect note between completely ‘normal’ for want of a better word, and being charismatic enough to attract Linda.

Overall, this is a little gem of a movie – perfect if you want something entertaining, relatable and undemanding.

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Year of release: 1992

Director: Cameron Crowe

Writer: Cameron Crowe

Main cast: Matt Dillon, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda

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Set in the 1930s, this comedy revolves around Maurice and Arthur (Oliver Platt and Stanley Tucci), two out of work actors who stow away on a cruise ship when they are wrongly accused of assaulting the famous actor Jeremy Burtom (Alfred Molina). However, Burtom is also on the cruise ship, along with a cast of colourful characters, which means that the situation goes from bad to worse for the two hapless heroes.

With a supporting cast including Billy Connolly, Campbell Scott, Allison Janney, Tony Shalhoub and Steve Buscemi, you might think that this couldn’t go wrong – and it doesn’t. Well, for the characters it does, but with hilarious results for the viewer.

Tucci and Platt are incredibly funny as Arthur and Maurice, looking for all the world like a modern day Laurel and Hardy (and by coincidence, played by actors called Stanley and Oliver too!) There is a lot of slapstick and the whole film has a very zany feel to it, with all the cast giving it their all. Campbell Scott was for me, the funniest character, as a German member of staff. I have admired him as an actor for a long time, but this is the first time I have seen him in an out-and-out comedy, and he totally stole all of his scenes.

I watched this film on my own, and when I do that, it’s rare for me to actually laugh out loud (very common apparently) but this film actually did make me do that on several occasions. I loved the farce, the cleverness of the lines and the absurdity of the situation. This film has definitely gone straight into my top ten films of all time.

Highly recommend, especially for fans of slapstick, or the old silent comedy films of Laurel and Hardy or The Marx Brothers. Brilliant!

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Year of release: 1998

Director: Stanley Tucci

Producers: Jonathan Filley, Elizabeth W. Alexander, Stanley Tucci

Writer: Stanley Tucci

Main cast: Stanley Tucci, Oliver Platt, Campbell Scott, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina, Lili Taylor, Tony Shalhoub, Teagle F Bougere, Allison Janney, Matt McGrath, Richard Jenkins, Billy Connolly

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This movie spans the years of 1981 – 1989, and focuses on a group of gay men in Los Angeles, during the emergence of devastating effects of AIDS.  The film begins with the friends learning about a new disease which seems to affect gay men, and they speculate on whether it could be caused by drugs (poppers) or other factors.  As the years go by – each one depicted in a vignette, updating the viewer on what is now going on with the character’s lives – several of the group grow sick and die, while the others have to learn to cope with the loss and the implications for themselves.

I admit that I really wanted to see this because the always excellent Campbell Scott is in it.  I had thought that he was a supporting character, but in actual fact, he is one of the biggest parts, and he is wonderful in it.  He plays the part of Willy, a man who has to watch as he loses good friends to this awful cruel disease, but he also has to confront his own prejudices (a scene where he visits one friend in hospital, and goes to the bathroom to frantically wash every part of himself that the friend has touched during a hug is particularly uncomfortable, especially now that people know that AIDS of course cannot be transmitted by touch – but this scene is set at a time when people were still unsure of how you could ‘catch’ the illness, and paranoia had set in).

Bruce Davison was also excellent – heartbreakingly so – as a man who has to watch his lover’s worst fears come true.  Davison was nominated for an Oscar for his role, and deservedly so.

Other members of the uniformly wonderful cast include Patrick Cassidy, John Dossett, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey, Mark Lamos and Dermot Mulroney.

Speaking for myself, I was only young – maybe 12 or 13 – when we first learned about this scary new disease called AIDS.  This meant that growing up, my generation was always aware of this spectre, and it was therefore always something to think about.  I guess that makes us luckier than those who were some years older, and only learned about AIDS when they may have already been exposed to it.  I think this film perfectly captured the terror and confusion that surrounded AIDS, as well as the prejudices that came with it.

It is a beautifully made, wonderfully acted, incredibly moving film about a disease that changed everything.  I highly, highly recommend it.

Year of release: 1989

Director: Norman René

Producers: Lydia Dean Pilcher, Lindsay Law, Stan Wlodkowski

Writer: Craig Lucas

Main cast: Campbell Scott, Patrick Cassidy, John Dossett, Bruce Davison, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephen Caffrey, Dermot Mulroney, Mark Lamos

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Full disclosure: The first time (and only time until now) that I watched this film was when it first came out in 1991, at the cinema.  At that time, it resonated strongly with me, because I was head-over-heels in (unrequited) love with a young man, who was very ill and was receiving chemotherapy.

So 23 years later, in entirely different circumstances, I was not sure if I would enjoy it as much as I did previously.  It did however have the advantage of starring Campbell Scott, who is an actor I always enjoy watching.  He plays Victor Geddes, a 28 year old man who has had Leukemia for 10 years.  He hires Hilary (Julia Roberts) as a carer, to help him with the debilitating effects of his treatment.  They end up falling in love when Victor is in remission, but when he becomes ill again, their relationship is put under tremendous strain.

As it turned out, I did enjoy watching this film again.  Admittedly, it is flawed in places, and the Hilary character in particular is a bundle of cliches, but despite this, it is still a very moving and emotional story.  Campbell Scott was always a perfect choice to play Victor, and he did an excellent job at portraying the young man’s frustration and anger, as well as his determination to enjoy whatever time he has left.  He has a beautiful fragility and gentleness about him, and it is easy to understand how he and Hilary – who come from entirely different backgrounds, and initially struggle to understand each other – end up falling in love.  At one point, he decides that he is no longer going to receive treatment for his disease, and is going to let things play out as they will.  His feelings are entirely reasonable, but so are those of Hilary and his father, who don’t want him to give up.

Overall, I would say that this is a film well worth seeing, but make sure you have tissues handy, because you will cry.

Year of release: 1991

Director: Joel Schumacher

Producers: Sally Field, Mauri Syd Gayton, Duncan Henderson, Kevin McCormick

Writers: Marti Leimbacj (novel), Richard Friedenberg

Main cast: Campbell Scott, Julia Roberts, Vincent D’Onofrio, Colleen Dewhurst

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