COLIN FIRTH EMILY BLUNT ANNE HECHE
Sadly, the film is not any more interesting or creative than the boring title. Arthur Newman is a film by first-time feature director Dante Ariola who has cast British actors in American roles. Flipping their European tongues to sound American is not a difficult task for Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Looper), or Oscar winner Firth (The Kings Speech) but creating interesting characters out of stereotypes is beyond even their abilities. There is not much to like or really deliberate on in this film because it has nearly everything we have seen before in American cinema.
Wallace (Firth) does not like the man he has become, which is boring and predictable. His failed marriage has resulted in a son that he has no relationship with, and he now has a girlfriend (Heche) who remains with him only because of his dependability. Wallace decides to fake his death and become Arthur Newman, a persona he created in a golf tournament where he was offered a grand position that he now intends to take. On the road to his new life, however, Arthur meets Mike (Blunt) a disturbed young woman who needs rescuing.
Looking back at her career, Blunt has almost always been able to inject life into projects when it needed it. Here, however, she doesn’t play up to her skill, and instead, plays that same immature, unbalanced, dark personality almost every actress tries on at some point, e.g., Kidman in Birthday Girl, Blanchett in Little Fish, and Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married. Perhaps when you think of a good actor playing a boring role, Colin Firth might be the person who comes to mind since over the years he has nearly perfected playing a “stick-in-the-mud.” However, Firth’s charm and wit is drowned in this character.
All the sex scenes in random people’s houses and the push and pull between the characters become uninteresting with the frequency. Irony is supposed to be funny here, but fails to ignite any laughter. Anne Heche’s character, who never shares a scene with Blunt and only one with Firth, is the more interesting in the bunch, yet she is never allowed to explore more, making us wonder why she is necessary to the story. Even with great talent on the screen, the inexperience of director Ariola off screen brings the entire production to something very uninteresting and dull.
Final Thought – All three actors deserve more challenging material.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This is a story about trying on other identities when you don’t like your own. Wallace (Colin Firth) is a restless man who decides to change his identity by faking his death and taking on someone else’s name, Arthur J. Newman—a name which just came to him out of the blue when a stranger asked him. He decides to become that person, but with a part of his own past life put into that identity. On his way to a job in Indiana, he rescues a young woman, Mike (Emily Blount), who has also assumed another identity, that of her sister who is in a mental institution. In getting acquainted with one another, they begin playing a game of trying on the identities of people they meet along the way who are not going to be at home. The pair breaks into their houses (Mike used to be a locksmith), wear their clothes, sleep in their beds, and eat their food, then go on their way. It is great fun for a time, but a couple of events have an impact on them, especially Wallace, who has abandoned his 13 year-old son. Then it is time to do some soul-searching and decide what to do next.
The film, directed by Dante Ariola, a new filmmaker, reflects some of what his family says about Wallace, that he is boring. In much of the film, the character shows an almost paralyzing ambivalence and reluctance to attach. The romps he has with Mike in taking on other identities helps some in jazzing him and the story up, but the story simply does not have enough depth to engage the viewer in a profound way. It is mildly interesting, but that is about it. It makes me think—and marvel more—about some short films I have seen that pull me in, affect me deeply, and I think about them long after. Becky Johnston wrote the screenplay, and her previous work in Seven Years in Tibet and The Prince of Tides was very good, but for some reason, Arthur Newman falls short of those marks. The material does not match the level of the actors.
The leads are two superior actors—and they give their usual fine performance in this film. I am especially impressed with their taking on American accents without a trace of British pronunciation. Anne Heche is also very good in her role as the abandoned girlfriend. Her interactions with Wallace’s son—whom she had not met previously—are very tender, and very natural.
Overall, Arthur Newman is interesting, but not impressive.
Grade: C By: Donna R. Copeland