Friday, 12 January 2018

Hampstead (2017)

I really must stop watching films for the cast and start to pay attention to that little voice in my head that warns me about films with soppy, half hearted narratives that barely get a release here in the UK.

As suspected, Hampstead is a terrible middle class wet fart of a movie, designed to lure some of that grey pound from the Marigold Hotel market and to charm American audiences who believe we all live in leafy London suburbs and quaint picture book cottages.  I hate that people think of guff like this when they think of the British film industry. This isn't British, this is pandering to a US market with a vision of England that doesn't exist, and that probably never even existed. The British film industry should be about Clio Barnard, Andrea Arnold, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Lynne Ramsay, Danny Boyle, Alan Clarke...I could go on.

What's truly galling about this whole Weinstein backed enterprise (anyone else get the creeps when his name appears on the credits these days? I mean, I always did...but now we know what we know, even more so) is that somewhere in its twee, chocolate box meanderings it genuinely thinks its addressing the very present housing crisis in this country. The film is inspired by one Harry Hallowes, a homeless man who, in 2007, claimed squatters rights and saw off property developers who wished to build on the hectare of abandoned land he called home. There's no understanding or real empathy here about the housing crisis; Diane Keaton (essentially transplanting her Annie Hall shtick to London) feels a kinship with the harassment Brendan Gleeson's rugged man of the heath gets because *shock horror* she's struggling to pay the service charge on her des res apartment block which comes complete with the services of an attentive porter/receptionist. It goes without saying that this kinship in the face of devious land developers who are so thinly drawn that the film can scarcely give them screen time, soon turns to romance but not before a last minute spanner in the works when whiny Keaton becomes very needy and demanding, asking the man she has fallen for to completely give everything away (y'know, the thing they were actually fighting for just minutes earlier) for her because she wants to be swept off her feet. Yes, she actually phrases it like that.

Within five minutes of this tosh it's clear that the real inspiration for Hampstead was not Hallowes, but was in fact Richard Curtis' Notting Hill and, just like that movie's offensive obliteration of the black community who live in the real district of Notting Hill, this film (directed by Joel Hopkins who gave us Last Chance Harvey, which was a nice watch, and The Love Punch, which was fucking awful - a similar waste of talent) resolutely fails to acknowledge that the heath is an infamous cruising spot. It's equally clear that the film attempts to get by solely on its cast (which includes a collection of Mike Leigh players: Lesley Manville as Keaton's snobby, patronising neighbour, Jason Watkins as a deeply embarrassing suitor, and lastly - and best of all - Phil Davis in a short but sparky cameo) but when a film can turn Keaton, an actress I've long admired, into an irritant you want to violently shake, there really is no hope. In fact the only thing going for this was the fact that Keaton, as a woman in her 70s, was allowed to fight off a man twenty years her junior (Watkins) and fall for one ten years younger than her (Gleeson). Now how often do we see that?

Oh and £124 quid for a beret? Fuck off you poncey southern twats.

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