Miss You Already

An unsentimental yet sincere depiction of illness and friendship

It may not have a particularly original plot and may be presented in a way that is ultimately wildly manipulative (read as: you will cry) the film itself is admirable in what it, mostly, achieves. It presents a relatively honest depiction of breast cancer; the impact it places upon relationships both platonic and romantic along with the physical toll it takes. Whilst that alone is immensely refreshing, this is furthered by the presentation of a friendship that will resonate with audiences’.

Millie (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) have been best friends since childhood. They have experienced every first together, everything from first kiss to first child, with their polar opposite personalities allowing them to bring out the best in each other. Whilst Jess is more conservative and stable, Millie is the overconfident and glamourous wild-child yet they are totally and completely inseparable. Both are happily married, yet rather than this separating them their respective husbands (Millie is married to Dominic Cooper’s Kit with Jess married to Paddy Considine’s Jago) and Millie’s two children instead make up one big family. But the family is rocked by Millie’s life-altering diagnosis of breast cancer, just as Jess finds out that she is pregnant with her much-longed for first child, which will put their friendship and their makeshift family to the ultimate test.

Collette does any amazing job (as is to be expected) playing Millie. Her acting, along with the screenplay and the film’s direction avoid what many similar films have done in the past, of making the person suffering from cancer into some sort of saint or martyr. Instead Millie stays the same as it is implied she always was – a mostly well-meaning but often not very nice person. This feature is really the film’s only comparatively unique feature. This, along with the portrayal of her treatment, make the film feel more honest and in a sense more brutal than others of this kind. Millie starts the film loud and vulgar, and although she spends the majority of the film in an oncology unit, she still stays the same person. Cancer doesn’t ‘fix’ her personalities ‘faults’, at times it only exacerbates them, consequently making her more relatable than many other presentations of the disease. It’s a reminder that cancer can, and with the current odds will, affect all of us whether we are good, bad or, like Millie, the grey area in-between.

However, it would be wrong to say this film is truly great or fully lives up to its potential. As we only see Jess and Millie’s friendship through flashback or montage, we are unable to fully latch onto their story. Aside from their respective health concerns, and a few references to a shared love of Wuthering Heights and R.E.M’s Losing My Religion, we aren’t really given enough about what makes them such good friends. The film constantly tells us this, but never shows us quite enough to engage us fully with their bond and ultimately does not earn the empathy it had the potential to do so.

Nevertheless, the ensemble cast, with Collette at the forefront, are all reliable and supply solid performances. Jacqueline Bisset is fantastic as Millie’s actress mother, Frances de la Tour momentarily steals the show in her short appearance as a wig-maker and Tyson Ritter (lead singer of All American Rejects) pops up as a swaggering barman.

From the opening of the film the inevitable outcome is presented, yet it will withhold interest and induce multiple bursts of tears throughout.

Fantastic Four

An open letter to 20th Century Fox,

[HERE BE SPOILERS!]

Dear 20th Century Fox,

I write this letter/review to you immediately after seeing ‘Fantastic Four’. I’d like to ask to ask you one simple question. How did that happen? How did you manage to make such a mind-blowingly boring superhero movie? The film only lasts 100 minutes, but it felt like so much more. I do not write this to you as a comic book puritan, or as a ‘Fantastic Four’ puritan. I’ve only ever read one or two ‘Fantastic Four’ graphic novels, and I have a rather big soft spot for the 2005 film starring Chris Evans and Jessica Alba (yes, I know it’s pretty awful and dated but it is rather funny and, unlike this movie, rather entertaining.) I’d read the damning reviews of this, but still held out hope that there were some redeeming features within the movie. There really weren’t. The characters were tedious, unlikeable and one dimensional. The Frustratingly-dull Four, sorry ‘Fantastic’ Four (Reed Richards/ Mr Fantastic – Miles Teller, Ben Grimm/The Thing – Jamie Bell, Sue Storm/ Invisible Woman – Kate Mara and Johnny Storm/ Human Torch – Michael B. Jordan) were ill-served. They were given such rubbish material in terms of script that it’s unsurprising there was barely an ounce of charisma between them. But not only was the characterisation within the movie immensely poor – so was the pacing and story-telling. Whilst all films could be divided into acts, as an audience member you shouldn’t be able to see it. With this film there were three clear acts: the bad, the meh and the god-awful. Let’s look at them together…

The origin story’
Well first of all you stumbled at the first hurdle. Origin stories are problematic and require a careful balance. Whilst you want to introduce a mainstream audience who may not have any prior knowledge of the characters or their humble beginnings, you also want to placate the fans who are already well-versed in the mythology. I doubt you appeased either of those audiences. For one thing, the ‘Fantastic Four’ have a rather simple origin story – an experiment goes wrong and four scientists end up with superpowers. Done. It doesn’t require 30 minutes of screen-time to set this up, dating from childhood to the present day. It’s a bold decision, which requires a degree of audience sympathy to establish deep sympathy. Instead Reed Richards is established as a character of utter pity, presented in an unsympathetic portrayal of nerdom. He feels alone and an outcast (no points for originality here!) with his only supporter being his loyal best friend Ben Grimm. It’s at this point, 20th Century Fox, that you lost the majority of any fan-boy/girl loyalty. ‘It’s clobberin time’, The Thing’s battle-cry, his trademark for the past 54 years is established as the phrase Ben’s abusive brother uses as code that he is about to be beaten up. WHAT?!?! No. You took such a beloved catchphrase and tainted it, needlessly, utilising it as a symbol of darkness and pain. It many ways it’s the film’s Grimm-est (apologies, just trying to lighten the tone…) and one which would have alienated any of the ‘Fantastic Four’ fans who risked trailing this remake.
Conclusion: I care about Batman’s origins. I somewhat care about the Avenger’s origins (to varying degrees). I don’t care about Fantastic Four origins.
Finally the film gets to the should-be-good stuff with Reed, Ben and Johnny joined by Victor Doom (the only marginally interesting character, played by Toby Kebbell) use the machine they have created to enter another dimension, later named Zero. As made clear by the trailer (and known to anyone who knows even a small amount about comic books) it all goes wrong. The sequence itself is presented reasonably well and adequately (if not particularly subtlety) explains why each of the group got their particular power. Things seemed to be picking up…
 ‘Aftermath’
It’s at this point in the film that should I be forced, against my will, to retrospectively chose my ‘favourite’ five minutes, I would chose the first sequence of act two. The sequence where the three survivors, and the infected Sue Storm, are revealed to be being held at ‘Area 57’. They way their new powers are revealed to the audience, and their father figure Franklin Storm, hints at the film this could have been. The camera acts like a voyeur, examining these wounded figures and revelling in the grotesqueness of their new abilities. It’s almost like a David Cronenberg movie, with Reed’s stretched limbs, Sue intermittently fading out of existence, Johnny’s constant rage of fire and Ben’s hulking mass of boulders. They are treated and presented like the aftermath of a failed science experiment – which they are.
 ‘Showdown’
This sequence is cut bitterly short with Reed running away, promising to solve everything. Cut to black, ‘one year later’, then we have five minutes of exposition where we can see what the others three characters have spent the past year doing and how they can now harness their abilities. Then we have five minutes of a chase movie, where it’s proven to the viewer that Sue Storm is ‘smart’ as she can type furiously into a computer. Reed is located, returned to Area 57 and swiftly fixes the technology to revisit Zero. The human guinea pigs (some may call them idiots) who arrive at Zero are greeted by a seemingly injured Victor Doom. They bring him back to Earth and a dull-but-important man in a suit tells him that he plans to use Victor and the resources from Zero to create more human weapons. Victor does not react well to this and decides to wreak havoc on the facility and Earth itself. His proceeding actions, his Walk Of Pain if you will, are incredibly violent and rather shocking.
 In fact it makes the film’s 12A rating seem pretty, erm, mind – blowing (sorry…)
We then have 15 minutes of a battle sequence. This fails for two reasons. It’s plotted in a way that induces battle fatigue, ‘wow, looks explosions and things being destroyed!’ and is scripted in a toe-curlingly clumsy manner. Highlights include,
‘It’s Victor! He’s the power source!’ and  ‘He’s stronger than any of us!/Yes. But he’s not stronger than all of us!’ Victor is defeated and the four return home. They are given a new base of operations and discuss having a team name (yep, this film really favours subtlety…) Ben then reflects on his BF’s journey and says, ‘It’s just fantastic’ (spoken after he has literally been turned into a walking talking rock pile and just been used by the US military as a weapon for the past year. Reed pauses and says, ‘Wait. Say that again…’ And thus, in this ham-fisted manner, the team no-one really cares about is born and the film ends. No after-credit sequences, which this film could have really used.
All in all, 20th Century Foc, this film was bad. It was dull, boring, clunky and a poor attempt at a comic book adaption. One of the worst there has been for a long time. The fact that you made this film as a cynical way of holding onto the rights to the franchise, instead of letting them slip into the grasp of your mortal enemy (the immensely more successful Marvel Studios) make this an even more bitter cinematic experience. It’s sad to think of what might have been. You, perhaps over-eagerly, pencilled in a sequel before this film even came out. Good luck with that. It’s going to require more restructuring of both crew and cast than I think you have the balls for.
Best of luck,
Charlotte Sometimes