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is anybody there?
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Is Anybody There?

Starring Michael Caine, Bill Milner
Screenplay by Peter Harness
Directed by John Crowley
no website

IN SHORT: For the art house -- this time, that's a good thing. [Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references, and some disturbing images. 95 minutes]

We have been writing as "the cranky critic" for about fifteen years. Before that we spent ten years in the rock 'n' roll radio business doing the same kind of review and interview thing that we do now. We've seen nobodies explode into stardom and we've seen alleged or one-time stars behave like total a-holes as they flame out. That being said it is a rare treat to watch a master of his art give free reign to a newbie actor and set loose a movie treat. Said treat is called Is Anybody There? and, save for the almost impenetrable British accents it is a real good sit.

Somewhere in England, sometime in the late 1980s, a family makes its living by running Lark  House, a retirement community. Mom (Anne-Marie Duff) and Dad (David Morrissey) keep track of the eccentric and/or Alzheimer's afflicted tenants. Ten year old son Eddie (Bill Milner) fumes in a basement room, having been forced to give up his personal bedroom space for the old folk. Eddie is, shall we say, self-contained. No friends his age. No apparent friends of any age, either. His only amusement comes from hiding a tape recorder in the rooms of the very old or very sick, hoping to catch the sounds of ghosts or death and whatever it sounds like when the old folk pass over. It would be a fairly creepy hobby if Eddie weren't so earnest and curious.

Into that retirement home, Brit Social Services has placed "The Amazing Clarence." At least that's the name emblazoned on the side of his van. Clarence is, or more accurately was a touring magician. In his retirement, though, he is a grouchy, downright cranky od man who wants nothing to do with nobody -- especially since his partner slash wife (all magicians have a pretty young thing by their side, you know) left the act years ago. Clarence carries a lot of anger about that separation. While Eddie tries to make a new friend, the old  man tells the kidlet to bugger off.

Michael Caine, Bill Milner, Director John Crowley, Writer Peter Harness and Producers Marc Turtletaub, David Heyman and Peter Saraf.


Sir Michael Caine gives one of the finest performances of his career as a retired magician who reluctantly enters a family-run old age home in John Crowley’s IS ANYBODY THERE?  Set in a seaside English town circa 1987, IS ANYBODY THERE? charts the unlikely friendship that develops between Caine’s proud, acerbic old performer and the death-obsessed young son (played by SON OF RAMBOW’S Bill Milner) of the home’s overwhelmed owners.  Written by Peter Harness, who draws from his own experience growing up in a retirement home, IS ANYBODY THERE? brings a rich humor as well as a rigorous honesty to its portrait of different lives colliding under one roof.  With a supporting cast that includes Anne-Marie Duff (THE MAGDALENE SISTERS), David Morrissey (THE DEAL), Rosemary Harris (SPIDER-MAN) and Leslie Phillips (VENUS), IS ANYBODY THERE? tells a charming story about growing up and growing old, and the unpredictable adventures that happen along the way.

hee hee hee.

While Clarence would prefer  to fester in his grumpiness -- he'd much rather live in his van -- he  eventually talks to the boy and inadvertently drops a clue as to what needs to be done to settle his emotional baggage. This means a road trip w/o parental permission (the parental units, of course, think their kidlet has been kidnapped by a senile old man) and, finally, a truly satisfying resolution. It's a hard film to get into, mostly due to the accents and minor social differences but, once you're in, it's a great piece of work from Sir Michael. The kid ain't bad neither.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Is Anybody There?, he would have paid . . .


The last time we've seen such a generous offering by a seasoned actor to a newbie plebeian was probably Paper Moon (not that Ryan O'Neal was as seasoned as Michael Caine, but he sure was older than daughter and co-star Tatum in that classic <g>)

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