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REVIEW: "On Chesil Beach"

By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com

originally published: 05/26/2018

REVIEW: "On Chesil Beach"

There’s an argument to be made against novelists adapting their own work for the screen.  They might be too in love with their words and don’t understand how to turn those words into images in the manner of a conventional screenwriter. They may struggle to trim down their work to fit a two hour running time, devoting too much time to unnecessary subplots at the expense of the main narrative.

If ever an example backed up that argument it’s Ian McEwan’s adaptation of his 2007 novel, On Chesil Beach, directed by Dominic Cooke, a veteran theatre director who seems to know as little about the craft of screen storytelling as McEwan. Only the enthralling central performances of Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle prevent their film from becoming a contender for ‘worst of 2018’ lists.

Ronan and Howle play Florence and Edward, whom we meet at the titular resort the afternoon following their wedding. It’s 1962, a year before the first albums from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would drop and change the fabric of British society forever; young men still wear shirts and ties to dinner and women won’t be caught dead in mini-skirts. Florence and Edward appear to have chosen the most unromantic hotel in England for their first night as newlyweds, served a dry, unappetizing meal of roast beef and veg by a pair of comic relief waiters who sneakily top up their spilled wine bottle with water.

After their meal, the young couple kick around the idea of consummating their marriage. Virgin Edward is nervous but enthusiastic, but his bride seems particularly reluctant to engage in physical passion with her new husband. Through flashbacks, we witness the courtship and blossoming of their relationship, and a dark detail of Florence’s past is revealed.

REVIEW: "On Chesil Beach"

The revelation of said detail arrives during what should be the inciting incident of the drama, but which here comes at least 80 minutes into the movie, casting a giant shadow on the middlebrow hijinks On Chesil Beach has offered up to that point. It’s a revelation that paints a supporting character as something of a monster, yet it’s followed by a scene involving the character in question losing his rag during a tennis match, as if equating being a sore loser at sport with the despicable and taboo act the film suggests he’s responsible for committing.



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This moment is indicative of the sloppiness of McEwan and Cooke’s storytelling, with wildly differing scenes placed together to create a jackknifing of tone. Much of the drama plays out like a light comedy from the era, Doctor at Large with a bit of modern class commentary thrown in, while the bedroom awkwardness wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On movie. Even its darker moments are shot as though to elicit laughs, such as the revelation of how Edward’s mother became brain damaged, or a flashback demonstrating how improbable tough guy Edward defended the honor of the most stereotypical Jewish geek this side of Robert Carradine in Revenge of the Nerds.

‘Show, don’t tell’ are three words of advice McEwan and Cooke show a disdain for here, their film’s protagonists telling a lot through words that could have easily been conveyed through images. On their first date, Florence tells Edward how instantly attracted she was to him, going into detail about his scruffy hair and the patch on his trouser leg. Yet we witnessed their first encounter earlier and Cooke’s camera failed to convey any such detail as he settled for a pair of medium closeups and denied us Florence’s perspective.

Things progress from lazy and uninventive to downright tacky in the final act when we flash forward to a version of 1975 that seems to take the goofy Hammer movie Dracula A.D. 1972 as its visual reference point, and then on to 2007 where Ronan and Howle are forced to wear some laughably unconvincing old age make-up.

On Chesil Beach’s biggest crime however is that despite the commitment of its young stars, it never convinces us that we’re watching two real people in a genuine relationship, and the pivotal action the drama hangs on is such a grand and foolish gesture that it’s simply impossible to swallow. Florence and Edward clearly aren’t a suitable couple, and on the evidence of this collaboration, neither are McEwan and Cooke.



On Chesil Beach - 2  stars out of 5

Directed by: Dominic Cooke; Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle, Emily Watson, Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough, Samuel West





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2018 Westfield International Film Festival To Take Place September 20-23
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Anybody can go to a movie theater to watch a film, but the Westfield International Film Festival is bringing movies to the mansion with its sixth season at the James Ward Mansion in downtown Westfield from September 20 - 23, 2018!  The festival will span a four day weekend and will include Q&A sessions with actors and filmmakers, networking opportunities, and red carpet parties.
JCTC FILM Premiers DEKA-LOG, New Series Depicting Contemporary Urban Life
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- A new anthology web-series by an up and coming, Jersey City-based filmmaker, premiers at Merseles Studios on August 23rd when Jersey City Theater Center presents DEKA-LOG: a Finding Me story.  Doors are at 6:30pm, screening at 7:00pm.  Admission is $10.
​​​​​​​The Newton Theatre Presents a Silent Film Halloween With A Live Orchestra
(NEWTON, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre presents a trio of ghostly silent films paired with the original historic orchestral scores on Saturday, October 27 at 3:00pm. Travel back to the early 1900s to cheer and hiss with Buster Keaton in The Haunted House (1921), Laurel and Hardy in Habeus Corpus (1928), and Charlie Chaplin in One A.M. (1916). Between the films, enjoy the rollicking rhythms of the early 20th century as played by The Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, featuring favorites by Scott Joplin, Irving Berlin, and more! Fun for the whole family!
A Look At New Jersey Film Festival's Fall 2018 Lineup
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The 36th Bi-annual New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will take place at Rutgers University in New Brunswick from September 14 - October 26.  The festival showcases new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries through over 30 film screenings. The Festival will run on select Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. The festival is presented by Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, in association with the Rutgers University Program In Cinema Studies.
​​​​​​​Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center To Hold Free Screening of "MILK"
(MONTCLAIR, NJ) -- Montclair Film and Hackensack Meridian Health Mountainside Medical Center will present a free screening of MILK (2015) on Wednesday, August 29th at 10:30am at Montclair Film’s Cinema505. The screening, presented in celebration of World Breastfeeding Month, seeks to educate and promote breastfeeding among nursing and expecting mothers.


Newark Black Film Festival
​​​​​​​Richard Wesley is a playwright, screenwriter, and professor of Dramatic Writing at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, and has been involved with the Newark Black Film Festival for well over three decades. A Newark native, he’s currently the Chairperson of the festival’s Selection Committee. The NBFF is currently in full swing, with a screening of Cadillac Records tomorrow, and the biennial Paul Robeson Awards for young filmmakers taking place on Wednesday, August 8. This season’s program also features the films Selma, I Called Him Morgan, The Art of the Journey, Coco, and Hidden Figures. We recently spoke with Wesley about the history and mission of the Newark Black Film Festival, the role it plays in the lives of young filmmakers, and a chance encounter with Sidney Poitier that launched him into the film industry.
REVIEW: "Skyscraper"
Over the last half century, the concept of blockbuster spectacle has flipped on its head. In the 1960s, big budget spectacle meant Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle without the aid of a stunt double, or Julie Andrews screaming her lungs out on a Swiss mountainside. Science fiction was relegated to Saturday morning screenings of b-movies, which parents would use to relieve themselves of their tykes while they went shopping. George Lucas  changed all that a decade later, and now sci-fi and fantasy dominates the multiplex, while the only movies featuring practical stunts are those low budget straight to VOD action movies designed to showcase the athleticism of former MMA fighters.
REVIEW: "BlacKkKlansman"
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t a remake of Ted V. Mikels’ infamous 1966 grindhouse staple. Rather it’s based on true events (“Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real shit,” reads the title card, because Lee is apparently a 12-year-old boy), the story of how rookie cop Ron Stallworth (played here in a star-making turn from John David Washington, son of Denzel) became a member of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, despite being an African-American.
REVIEW: "When I Sing"
Most of the world learned of Linda Chorney in 2012 when her name was listed as one of the Grammy nominees for Best Americana Album. Her film, When I Sing, not only follows her rise from obscurity to the Grammy Awards, it goes much further.  It’s a love story between a die hard Red Sox fan and a Yankees fan; a spotlight on how indie artists survive on the road; and a deeply, revealing portrait of how the media and the music industry turned what could have been a wonderful Cinderella story into a very hurtful experience.
REVIEW: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
I recall hearing an anecdote concerning a society of pranksters in 1970s London who would take trips en masse to the cinema, only to walk out when or if the title of the movie in question was spoken by a character. That lot would get their money’s worth with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, as it’s not until the closing minutes that a returning original cast member (in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo) informs us that we’re now living in a “Jurassic World.” It’s the sort of cringeworthy moment that would normally cause me to groan, but I was so broken down by the laziness and ineptitude of this fifth installment in the franchise that I couldn’t even muster a sigh by that late point.






Event calendar
Monday, Aug 20, 2018


MUSIC

Asbury Park Industry Ball 2018 @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

FINDING FEEBAS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

Alex Laurenzi Quartet @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm


FILM

Eighth Grade @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm

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