Howdy Inter-Webbers. I’m Matt Cohen, and I dig British comedies.
We don’t get the chance to see many here in the states, so when one rolls around I always seize the opportunity and give it a watch. 7 times out of ten, it’s something forgettable. But on that occasion I find a British Comedy I connect with, I embrace it full force. Right now, kids, Is one of those times. Son of Rambow rocks. Hardcore.
Shocking confession: I have never seen ANY of the Rambo films. I know… I’m a commie. Regardless, without having seen Sly in jungle action, I can still happily report that I am now a fan of the man’s son. And no, I don’t mean the dude from Daylight - I am referring to the wonderful and wonderfully quirky little British film Son of Rambow. Now I, like many others, unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see this movie in theaters, but thankfully we live in the age of DVD (I wish I could say Blu-Ray… Maybe next year) and ALL films can be given their chance to be seen by an audience. Many times, the films go unseen in theaters for good reason, but in the case of the movie I saw, it’s almost criminal more of us didn’t get to experience Rambow on a big screen.
So without further ado, let’s get into it troops.
The Kids: Suffice it to say, in a movie that is primarily a “children’s film” - and in which most of the main characters are, in fact, young kids - casting is possibly the most important aspect of the whole process. So much depends on the A) Believability and B) Likability of the child actors, something which has backfired on many a movie starring juvenile actors. Whoever was in charge of casting this flick obviously did their homework. The two lead roles of William and Lee Carter carry the film, and in a much larger part the performances of the young and very talented Bill Milner and Will Poulter, respectively. Both these kids not only become their characters, but they do a great job of furthering the tone and pace of the film, much through the - dare I say - brilliant line readings they deliver. Will is so damn weird, and cute, and heart wrenchingly sad, whereas Lee Carter is Dennis the Menace with a cocky accent and a taste of psychosis, and every move these two actors make help to sell those traits even more. I loved the opening scene of this film, but I think the moment I realized I was watching something sublime was when Will licks the Cat-Piggy Bank… for no reason whatsoever. At the end of the day, who doesn’t love a kid who keeps pine cones in his locker? Some argue that child actors are just being kids on screen, but I disagree and think that there is a definite process and method to these performers, some better than others, and rarely as good as seen in this film. These are pretty damn nuanced roles, and I couldn’t help but stay impressed the entire film with Will and Lee, or rather Bill and Will. Freddy Highmore, move over, because both of these kids have a bright future ahead of them.
Supporting Cast: Though this is a very small film, in scope and story, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for pretty great supporting performances, both on the adult and kid side of things. Jessica Hynes (Or Daisy from Spaced) plays Will’s tightly wound, ultra conservative and constantly on the brink of breakdown religious mother (What a sentence), and she does it in top form. It isn’t really a comedic role at all, and having only seen Jessica on Spaced (And for a few scenes of Shaun of the Dead) I had no idea she had the dramatic chops as well. She really plays this woman close the edge of sanity, always almost seemingly about to cry. Her third act change is organic due to the depth and weight Hynes brings to the part. Very good stuff. The other standout, in my humble opinion, is the “Coolest” kid in school, French exchange student and bad boy-rocker Didier, played with a really fun sense of self by Jules Sitruck. From his first on-screen appearance, we know this kid is “different” - but Sitruck never goes the “weird foreigner” route with Didier, rather playing him as a cool and ambivalent visiting rock star. Plus, his performance as “The Wolf” is maybe the funniest thing in a very funny movie. Expect big things (at least over-seas) from this dude very soon.
The Look: In what was billed as a comedy, I was expecting laughs, but could not believe how gorgeous and inventive the look of this film is. A lush palette that utilizes the natural beauty and greenery of the English countryside coupled with a whimsical production design that instantly reminds one of a Wes Anderson film (A high compliment in my book). That is not to say this is just a “straight” piece, either. One scene, definitely in my favorites, is a black and white nightmare/cartoon/dream sequence that involved tin can scarecrows and flying dogs, and needs to be seen to be believed. Kudos to director Garth Jennings and DP Jess Hall of really doing some remarkable work here. In fact, Jennings doesn’t deserve enough credit for his work on this movie. I am now a huge fan of the man and eagerly await his next work.
The Score: Shades of Pee-Wee can never be bad. This Scores kicks all kinds of “rear”. Heavy organ/circus-like vibes throughout and a rollicking tempo that keeps the movie flowing at a wonderful pace. Joby Talbot is channeling straight Elfman here, and it works so well for this movie. Though set in a real world, there are hints of fantasy and “un-reality” throughout, and the score goes hand in hand with what we see and feel onscreen. The perfect accompaniment to a damn near perfect movie.
*Crickets* I told you, I REALLY like this movie.
Overall: One of the most fun, charming, and genuine films I have seen in a long while. This movie instantly gets bumped into my “Favorites” and that is due in a large part to two tremendous performances by two very small people. If you haven’t seen it, or weren’t planning to, I definitely recommend at least a rental. In a world of big budget action flicks and horror remakes, Son of Rambow stands out against the crowd. I wish, wish, wish this was a true story. I am ridiculous.
Sadly campers, that’s all for this week. But stay tuned for some very exciting (I can hardly breathe) content I’ll be bringing to you in the next month or so. Special Guests, Best of Lists, Interviews, and a much needed “State of the Union” address by yours truly. It’ll be real. And till then, as always,
“Keep em’ bagged and boarded”
-Matt Cohen is currently on his way to buy the Rambo box set.
Leave a Reply