A Touch of Grey – Review

On the face of it, A Touch of Grey, had the chance to be an understated work of intelligence. Its premise is to reunite four women after twenty-five years. The former high school friends would compare notes, and with a comedic angle, examine one another’s lives.

That was on the face of it, at least. Instead the early moments in the film are far from funny. Cringe, yes, but not in a deliberate way. Less The Office and more like it’s been produced by people that normally work in a paper mill.

Terrible camera work is only spared the title of worst element by the dire dialogue. Clichéd, forced and delivered by actresses that prove why some are suited to commercials and others meant for the big screen.

The soundtrack would have sounded bad on a bad seventies daytime TV show even back in the seventies. The little snippets of this remove you further from anything remotely natural feeling – if that’s at all possible, with the jarring conversation that sounds like a primary school student has written it for a lazy homework piece.

In the early going, it’s understandable if you give up before the thirty-minute mark. After all, there’s still time to press Stop on the player and find another movie. But then enters our fourth and final woman. Angela Asher’s Liz saves the setup from descending into something even worse.

She delivers her lines in the informal but natural way they were intended. The bigger life issues come up. Suddenly it’s not middle-aged women acting like they think girls do on a get together, but relatable issues we all face.

It begins to feel less forced, more natural especially when Barb opens up her heart. This is another saving grace because up until this point the actress who plays Barb, Maria del Mar, was the figurehead of the film. She was carrying a failing concept on her back and was looking as broken as her character.

Her little nuances and facial expressions give the depth to the later scenes that were wasted early on. The gloss is removed and it actually goes a little dark. If the initial annoying stages were set to act as a contrast, it was unnecessary, what follows is poignant enough.

It goes from touching, Patti breaking down about age catching up with her body but her mind feeling young. To the ridiculous, when Barb puts a lemon in Patti’s eye to disguise her tears from the others.

It is moving, just about. It suffers from all the additional and unnecessary components the filmmakers assumed were required to get it on film. These only serve to detract from the core messages.

It should have been played out as if on stage, delivered in monologue rather than moanalong.

The final third of the film saves it from a terrible score. Although it should feel lucky it hasn’t suffered a lower mark in spite of this.


Alan Partridge’s Scissored Isle – Review

Steve Coogan returned to our screens this week with the greatest comedy creation ever. That’s no small tag but Alan Partridge deserves it. The expectation to live up to the legacy is almost as hard as writing a spoiler free(ish) review. But here goes.

Within the opening seconds it is clear Coogan will deliver on expectation. The mockumentary format, last utilised in Welcome to the Places of My Life, sees a downtrodden Alan referring back to his breakdown in Mid Morning Matters.

He replays the sheep-shagging comment incident and backs it up with another slip-up, filmed on a mobile phone during a dinner speech. This was Partridge putting positive spin on a bad situation. His mission now: to discover how he had become so distant from the “chavs” he poked fun at.

Even in the prologue there are hidden gems. Cycling down the YouTube page of the dinner video, the viewer sees a series of angry comments, beneath one Lynn Benfield asks a naïve question. It’s a good touch and a nod to the past.

Before the halfway point there are enough one-liners to refresh the storage banks of Partridgeisms. This is great news for a man that uses around twenty a day. From the ladies on the tills at Tescos having the mental and physical dexterity of fighter pilots to “the 9/11 debacle,” it’s clear Coogan and his writing team is on top form.

He takes a trip to Manchester, to see how those on the rough side of life live. There, he mingles with street gangs and parties with them. The morning after he conducts an interview with the Manchester Mayor. Yes, he rehashes the dub over interview gag from Welcome to the Places of My Life but it isn’t through laziness. In jokes go hand-in-hand with the familiarity Partridge has earned over the years.

The scenes here give Alan the chance to be his cringe-worthy best. The more self-aware Coogan has become, the more self-deprecating he can be through the medium of Alan.

He also mingles with those that have, the well-to-do. Once again he manages to show how he can be awkward and fail to fit into any social scenario (but we’d all love to have him in ours). Watching a farmer, he reflects back to his time at Tesco with the already classic line: “What is a trolley man but a shepherd of the town?”

It shouldn’t be understated how good Scissored Isle is. It combines all the best elements of new Partridge and leaves the viewer hankering for more. There’ll never be a third season of I’m Alan Partridge but one-offs like this make it bearable. It manages to strike a balance for the old generation of fans and includes fresh takes on the character, some that could be seen as slap-stick.

A once divisive character now has enough to please everyone.

Coogan seems at ease in Alan’s skin now. There’s no shame in playing the role and the comfort shows in the performance. Hopefully it means many more years of an ever-changing but always familiar Partridge on our screens, both big and small.