WARNING : Negative words alert!!!!!
What follows won’t really come as a surprise to those of you who are in the unfortunate position of being able to read my Facebook posts.
Within 15 minutes of the credits rolling on England Is Mine, I was back on the train home to Glasgow. The original plan had been to head along to a post-screening reception that Mr John Greer had kindly arranged access to, but I felt I was a bit casually dressed for such a grand occasion and besides, if I had to bow to the decorum expected of such events, I’d needed to have lied through gritted teeth about my views on the film if asked by anyone involved in its making.
Instead I got to work on an instant review as the train headed west. And here’s what I typed.
“Sorry to say, but I thought the film was a real let down. The script, or lack of one, was a shocker. Anyone who went along tonight with no idea of the backstory would have been bemused and not really been able to follow it.
Morrissey was portrayed mainly as a one-dimensional character, with just one short scene with Linder showing any sense of warm humour. The world of work is populated by one-dimensional characters lifted straight from sit-com casting central; nobody understands our would be poet/writer/singer, especially his male colleagues and his boss, while his one female colleague just wants to get inside his y-fronts.
Oh and it constantly rains in Manchester too……
Soundtrack was enjoyable mind you.”
Leaving aside that I repeated the phrase ‘one-dimensional’, it’s not too shabby an instant reaction. A few other folk I know were also at the showing and some of them also gave fairly quick reactions via social media and it’s fair to say they didn’t agree with me.
The first two or three lengthy on-line reviews that followed a few hours later were also quite scathing although later opinions tended to be more favourable and offered various degrees of praise. As far as I can see, however, nobody has come out and said it’s a masterpiece.
Reflecting on things almost 24 hours on and the word I didn’t use in the Facebook review was ‘boring’ because that would have been what I’d have said if I was asked for a one-word reaction. If allowed a second word, it would have been ‘cliched’.
The truth of the matter is that Morrissey, from the ages of 17-24, didn’t lead a particularly exciting life and so a film biopic will always be on a hiding to nothing. The main issue for me was the poor quality of the script, but as was explained in one review, this stemmed from the screenwriters’ inability to quote anything that Morrissey was known to have said in real life for fear of being sued given the whole venture was unauthorised. As such, the few decent lines were given to other characters and Jack Lowden, in the role of our protagonist, has to rely on facial expressions and mannerisms to convince us of the depth of his character (and to be fair, he does a reasonable job). The best performance in the film comes from Jessica Brown Findlay in the role of Linder Sterling, but this is perhaps down to the fact that enough is known about the real life Linder to appreciate that the actress delivers an accurate and sympathetic portrayal of someone who, in real life, is an interesting personality in her own right.
My biggest problem was the way the other supporting characters came across. It was as if the director and scriptwriter had watched The Office and decided that the male characters who worked at the Inland Revenue alongside Morrissey should be as Brent-esque & co as possible. Maybe that was what they were really like in the late 70s but it was really dreadful, unfunny and predictable – as too were the scenes in which our hero finds himself on an enforced date with his flirtatious female colleague.
Much has been written about the influence that Morrissey’s mother had on him growing up, but for all but one scene they barely acknowledge one another. There is also little made of Morrissey’s alleged rapier-like wit that seemingly got him noticed on the Manchester scene – for 80% of the movie he is mostly an incoherent, bumbling individual bar the occasional exchange with Linder, but all of a sudden, after he has come off prescribed anti-depressant medication, only in the final 15 minutes of the movie, in which has also smartened up his dress sense and gotten a fashionable haircut, do the barbed comments start to flow.
The most pathetic scene, however, was when our hero, having had his genius denied just once too often for his liking, goes all Incredible Hulk on us and destroys his previously cave-like bedroom where everything was in a particular place for a particular purpose. Oh, and don’t get me started on Johnny Marr being straight out of the cast of the UK edition of Shameless…….
I don’t like to be negative on this little corner of the internet, but having already posted how excited I was to be going along to the premiere, I don’t think I can avoid sharing these thoughts with you.
And in the interest of balance, if anyone wants to offer a more positive review, I’d be very happy to post it.
Any excuse mind you to post the song from which the film title is taken:-
mp3 : The Smiths – Still Ill