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Metroland
Starring Christian Bale and Emily Watson
Screenplay by Adrian Hodges
Directed by Philip Saville
no website

IN SHORT: Must've been a great book...

It's twice in one week, now, that I've sat through stories that didn't make the translation to the big screen. Cranky cannot absolutely vouch for the source material, since I don't dig it up to write up a comparison, but most film makers don't commit hundred of thousands of dollars to making a story they didn't like to read. The simple fact of the matter is that you can get a lot more into a couple of hundred pages of text than into a hundred minutes of screen time. Such is the case with Metroland, out of the U.K.

This story, set in three different time periods is not difficult to follow, if you take the time to sit and try to figure out what was missing. What is onscreen is a story in which the characters and their relations to each other are way out of balance. I think it goes like this:

Chris (Christian Bale) and Toni (Lee Ross) were best friends as they finished our equivalent of high school, circa 1963. Despising their bourgeoisie parents and the life they are being raised to lead, Chris heads for Paris and Toni vanishes off the face of the planet. Wishing to become a professional photographer, Chris takes work in a bar run by the wife hating Henri (a French star named Rufus, who really seems to relish this role) and falls in love with a Parisian femme named Annick (Elsa Zylberstein).

Chris' first love may have been French but he married Marion (Emily Watson), whom he met in Paris, and fathered a little baby girl. Comfortably settled in "metroland," the bourgeois suburb he once despised Chris putters along in his life at an ad agency, until Toni reappears, having spent years gallivanting around the globe. His clothes are in shreds - but in the time frame of 1977 this wasn't out of the ordinary - but he is determined to shake up his old friend. The notes add that Toni is living off a wealthy American girlfriend, though if that's mentioned in the script it's lost. Good thing about notes, I don't remember the pricey bit of info being mentioned in the dialog. T'ain't the accents, as is usually the case, every word was clear as a bell.

Here's where the problems lie for me: the film doesn't take a tremendous amount of time on the earliest part of the friend's story. It would be useful to know what it is about this bonding that makes it so substantial. Otherwise, calling 'em devoted lifelong friends would've saved screen time. I want to know why it is so important for Toni to screw up Chris' life, and why Marion is so complacent with the idea of her husband taking affairs, which he doesn't. (Actually I know, but I'm not satisfied because Watson's play on the character is so damned passive). I can only guess as to Toni's motivations, which seem to run to the slacker side, but there isn't much to work with

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Metroland, he would have paid...

$1.00

Not for Americans.


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