16 August 2009

Flashbacks of a Fool

Misrepresentation Hurts Flashbacks of a Fool
By Kristin Battestella

Flashbacks of a FoolFlashbacks of a Fool stars Daniel Craig, and the current James Bond actor is walking tall above his costars on the DVD’s cover. Craig is also the producer of this R rated film that assures strong sexual content. Unfortunately for Craig’s fans, he’s not the star here- as all the bold print marketing would have you believe.

After the death of his childhood friend Boots, actor Joe Scott (Daniel Craig) puts aside his promiscuous and washed up druggie ways and travels home to England. With the support of his wise maid Ophelia (Eve), mother Grace (Olivia Williams), and Aunt Peggy (Helen McCrory), Scott reminisces on his youth. Teenaged Joe (Harry Eden) and Boots (Max Deacon) fight for the attention of Ruth (Felicity Jones) during one quintessential summer. Joe also begins a deadly affair with neighbor Evelyn (Jodhi May), causing him to leave home for Hollywood glory. Will the adult Joe make amends with Ruth (Claire Forlani) and rectify his past?

I can understand why a lot of viewers and critics were disappointed and quickly dismissed this 2008 coming of age tale written and directed by Baillie Walsh (Mirror, Mirror). The promotions hyped all the Craig this and Craig that, but he’s actually not in the picture that much. The focus of Flashbacks of a Fool is Harry Eden as young Joe Scott. Girlies expecting hot Craig romps do get their share, but there’s no tour de force here. Had the picture been labeled for what it is-a charming English coming of age in the seventies tale-the perceptions towards Flashbacks of a Fool might have been different.

I’ve made a point to watch more Daniel Craig films, and yet I still can’t place my finger on him. Even in a picture such as Flashbacks of a Fool-even as Bond-Craig doesn’t seem to have much dialogue or screen time. It’s so strange to say of the new millennium’s Bond, but Craig has yet to have a serious, Oscar worthy, tour de force lead role. He’s emotional and realistic as the adult Joe Scott, but we don’t get the serious soul searching expected from a part like this. It’s not that Craig doesn’t provide it-or isn’t talented, even stellar enough to do so-he’s just not on screen enough in Flashbacks of a Fool. My main impression of Craig here? Well, he’s playing a drug addicted, washed up actor with two first names as his first and last name. Are we really supposed to come away thinking that this is how Daniel Craig would have ended up without Bond?

The supporting adults do just fine in Flashbacks of a Fool, too- but likewise we don’t see much of Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black) or Keeley Hawes (MI-5) as Joe’s grown up sister Jesse. Jodhi May (The Other Boleyn Girl) is sexy as the naughty young thang next door, but her eye for teenage boys is statutory creepy, too. We know her performance will not end will. Miriam Karlin (A Clockwork Orange, The Rag Trade) is also a delight as the crabby, annoying, yet wise neighbor Mrs. Rogers; and rapper Eve (Barbershop and her titular Eve) is charming as the maid who’s too smart for all of Joe Scott’s crap. With such a mature and talented adult cast, there’s enough material for a separate picture. Why not simply have a washed up actor return home to reflect with his spinster aunt and the girl that got away? Walsh doesn’t use all the meat of his story or the talent onscreen.

Thankfully, Harry Eden (Oliver Twist, Bleak House) as the younger Joe and Felicity Jones (The Worst Witch, Brideshead Revisted) as the teenage Ruth make Flashbacks of a Fool. We spend the most time with them, after all. Again, this could have been the whole picture-a fine, tragic, coming of age film. Without Craig’s finances and star power, however, such a charming movie would never have seen the light of day. Eden has a touch of Craig’s stylings but adds his own emotional and angst to Joe Scott. Likewise, Jones is fun and carefree as the teen Ruth- before heartbreak, growing up, and death. As much as I’d like to see Craig have his penne ultimate role (Again, so odd to say about a man who’s landed Bond!), I hope to see these young actors succeed in fine film.

Yes, coming of age shows are nothing new, and youth in the seventies pictures are certainly out and about. However, Flashbacks of a Fool is unique for its English old style, glam soundtrack, and swift British beaches. Really filmed in South Africa, Walsh gives ups a particularly English tale thru clothes, David Bowie debates, and Brit wit. It’s all familiar, yet fresh and sassy. Flashbacks of a Fool looks the part. Although, I have to say, I don’t understand why we have a Craig’s hard-core sex scene over the opening credits. It’s as if Walsh doesn’t believe in his own film’s merit or ability to stand on its own. Star power is nice, but once we get passed the L.A. fluff, Flashbacks of a Fool is free to take us back to its heady, defining days.

Despite the overall briefity of the billed actors, fans of the cast will enjoy Flashbacks of a Fool. The youthful cast might also convert a few viewers, too. This one is not for minors or prudes of course- for there is plenty of nudity, sex, drinking, and drug use for audiences who like that sort of thing. The DVD is unfortunately weak, with only a five-minute bit of interviews. I can picture a lot of Craig’s obsessive lady fans snatching up the disc regardless. In the end, that’s probably what the powers that be had in mind. Flashbacks of a Fool was clearly a labor of love for those involved-if only the marketing campaign had been more faithful.

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