The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society - This Long-Titled Movie Just About Rocks
Dir: Mike Newell
Starring Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Tom Courtenay, Patricia Wilton, Jessica Brown Findlay, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Glen Powell
Too long a title. Too long a film. Which is not to say that The Guernsey etc. etc. etc. is without charm. It has plenty of it – though not as much as it needs, the vast majority of it supplied by the brilliant Ms James (We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – why is this woman not a huge star already?)
It is post-WWII and James is a successful young author, finding her glamorous London life and amorous American boyfriend unfulfilling, both. Responding to a letter from a pig farmer (the way you do) that posits a curious tale of book reading on the isle of Guernsey, she travels hence and slowly finds herself beguiled by the island and its people, as she ekes out their story of what went on under the recent Nazi occupation.
Newell’s film, an adaptation of the best-seller, is effective enough. But there’s a distinct feeling that it is content to be nothing more than that. Ambition is definitely not what’s on show here, what is is beautiful scenery, period costume, a slowly unwinding tale and a group of actors designed to make you feel comfortable. This is a warm bath (or maybe a lukewarm one without bubbles) of a film that also seems to scream out (if it could ever muster the energy to scream) “Well, if it’s good enough for the Best Exotic Marigold, then it’s good enough for us.” Grey pound effectively targeted, but even they may prove a more discerning crowd than Newell and co expect.
Ultimately, this is the every definition of “pleasant”, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just a sometimes underwhelming one. Courtenay and Wilton are as reliably superb as ever, Goode is good, but Huisman – as the world’s most unbelievable pig farmer – is simply too Mills & Boon for his own, and everyone else’s, good.
Which basically means it’s all down to James, who really knows how to deliver. Blessed with a combination of both grace and power, she once again proves what a fine and commanding actress she already is, deceptively controlling the screen. It’s a good thing she’s in just about every scene, as the movie would be undoubtedly lost without her. As it is, she makes it, well, very “pleasant.”
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