Arabian (arabian) wrote,

'Secret Smile' and 'Mansfield Park'

So, I'm beginning to go through my scads of Billie Piper, David Tennant, Christopher Eccleston and Catherine Tate filmographies. I've already discussed (ad nauseum) Secret Diary of a Call Girl and, no doubt, will continue to do so, but here are some older projects, one with Billie, the other with David. (I've got Second Coming with Chris Eccleston, and Starter for Ten with Catherine Tate next.) Anyhoo, on with my thoughts on both productions below, obviously spoilers (especially for the plot/ending of SS.)

Secret Smile - I was oddly really looking forward to this; I wanted to watch David playing some twisted, sick psycho. And, erm, I guess I got that? But, honestly, I didn't think this was very good. And I found myself quite annoyed at the end because the damn movie made me actually feel sorry for the twisted, sick psycho and that was just wrong. And, no, it had nothing to do with David being, well, David. (Okay, maybe a little bit, because he looked very, very pretty in this and he was using his natural Scottish accent, but, seriously, mostly, no.) It was because while Brendon Block may have been a fraud, a stalker, abusive and a rapist, he was NOT a murderer. I don't know, maybe if either lead had been better at offering subtext, layers there, I might not have felt that way, but ... didn't happen.

Kate Ashfield as Miranda was good, but there was no depth or layering to her portrayal. She just hit the beats of what was expected by the script and offered nothing further. So when the script didn't give me a reason to buy that Miranda would have taken such an extreme action (forget setting up a man for murder, but letting her parents and sister believe she was brutally murdered for at least six months?), I certainly didn't get it from Ashfield. I just didn't buy it. As for David Tennant, yes, he did good, but like Ashfield -- but better -- he just played the beats of the script and didn't add any subtext or layering. So I didn't get the sense that he truly was this evil person, just a thoroughly messed up individual who had never gotten the therapeutic help he needed and thus committed these acts because he'd never learned to control his desire and/or anger. I imagine that I was supposed to believe that he pushed both Troy and Laura to their deaths, but nothing in his performance offered any subtext to support that. So again, yeah, he was a fraud, a rapist, abusive and a stalker ... but he should have gone to jail for THOSE crimes, not for murder. And, then, the final shot of him, looking all emo and wronged against the prison wall made me feel sorry for him. And I shouldn't have.

I believe that David Tennant is capable of delivering amazing, jaw-dropping performances (because I've seen them), but I think he needs a great script or a great director. Without either, he doesn't give that extra oomph instinctively. However, he was good, and did a great job playing what was in the scene, he just didn't delve in between the lines enough for me to support the denouement. He sure did look and sound pretty, though. {{Sigh}} As for Kate Ashfield, I've never seen her anything else, and based on this, I have no desire to see her anything else. So overall, yeah, Secret Smile was a big disappointment.

Like Secret Smile, the script and direction for Billie's version of Mansfield Park left a lot to be desired. And it certainly didn't help that she was pretty much awful casting for the role of Fanny Price. Pale, sickly-looking and frail? No, not Billie Piper. She fairly bursts with irrepressible spirit and robust health, and that is not Fanny. Added to that, the script didn't help, having her run around, play badminton, etc. Still, Billie certainly did her best to act like the character of Fanny, she played her quiet, reserved and tamped down her spirit except for those moments when it was supposed to come forth. So she did the best job she could have with an off-script and director who clearly did not get it.

As for the rest of the cast, some worked, some didn't. The biggest problem (aside from Billie's casting as Fanny) was the truncated nature of this version. Things moved so quickly, the passage of time not coming across as such at all. It was just not well done. At all. But at the end of it, I didn't consider it a complete loss because of what Billie managed to wring out of the role because even miscast, and in a truncated version, badly adapted and directed, from arguably, Jane Austen's least popular work, she still managed to bring some of her very considerable awesome. Because she is that awesome.
Tags: billie piper, david tennant, reviews, tv

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