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Dom Hemingway (2014)
New York-born writer/director Richard Shepard has made a handful of theatrical movies over the past 20-plus years but is probably best known for his small screen work on the TV series Ugly Betty (20062010). Ugly Betty won Shepard a 2007 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, and an award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy Series from the Directors Guild of America. Nice. His recent big screen efforts include the Richard Gere box office dud The Hunting Party (2007) and one of my all-time favourite Pierce Brosnan comedies, The Matador (2005). As in Dom Hemingway, The Matador delivers smart quirky dialogue and taps into that crackling, often-elusive chemical dynamic between great actors when everything works. In my opinion, that's been Shepard's talent as both a screenwriter and as a director so far.
This small picture starts off being an explosive celebration of the written word as highly embellished, poetically puerile audacity throughout. Law is an incredible force of nature here as Hemingway: A contagiously charming, unhinged drunken menace, riding each crazily escalating verbal spew of crude macho bravado that begins with Dom's roaring opening jailhouse soliloquy to his, uh, Cockney. Truly funny stuff. At the same time, this ballsy scoundrel can't work up enough skin to face the cold shoulder of his grown-up daughter Evelyn - until an unforeseen calamity (and car accident) sideswipes Dom in France and reality's gravity drops him broken and deflated on her doorstep.
Huge kudos must also go to veteran screen star Richard E. Grant. While Law definitely carries the rollicking lion's share of this picture on his own, the scenes pairing him with Grant are deftly side-splitting moments of sheer comedic perfection. As well, rising talent Emilia Clarke is effortlessly spellbinding as Evelyn, nailing her brief but memorable portrayal as the only person whose sharp glance can bring Dom to his knees. It'll be interesting to see where Clarke's promising movie career leads.
However, just as Dom Hemingway is a gloriously over-the-top showcase for Law over-all, the story also loses conviction halfway through. Big time. It's as though writer/director Shepard fell in love with the film echoing Dom's jolt of blunt humility, but lacked the ability or interest in maintaining the same wonderfully clever level of writing enjoyed earlier from this effort. Dom is left a hard on his luck lout who eventually sees what he's truly lost, but the script becomes curiously dull and heavily reliant on the cast filling in the blanks without much to work with once the normal working class world takes over Dom's life. It's a shame. Worse still is when the final big scene in Lestor's office attempts to re-ignite this movie's former bombastic glory and ends up falling victim to Shepard's unforgivably lame plot twist.
Barely captivating writing throughout the second half hardly makes Dom Hemingway worth the price of full admission at the big screen, but this indie Brit comedy starts off strong as a showcase of Jude Law's predominantly riotous starring performance and serves up some exceptionally fine work from Grant and Clarke. Make it a second or third choice rental for the memorably good stuff, and write off the rest. Reviewed 05/14, © Stephen Bourne, moviequips.ca.
Dom Hemingway is rated 14A by
the Ontario Film Review Board, citing occasional gory/grotesque
images, slurs, sexual references, infrequent strong aggressive
coarse language, nudity in a non-sexual context, partial or full
nudity in a brief sexual situation, illustrated or verbal references
to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, substance abuse, embracing and
kissing, sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity, tobacco use,
and restrained portrayals of non-graphic violence, and is rated
13+ by la Régie du Cinéma in Québec.
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