Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TYRANNOSAUR: Paddy Considine turns filmmaker as Mullan and Colman shine

At a press preview last week, a compatriot of mine, Kent Turner of Film Forward used the term British miserabilism to describe movies such as TYRANNOSAUR, the first full-length film to be written and directed by the crack British actor Paddy Considine. Having recently sat through other examples of this genre -- NEDS and In Our Name are two such -- I find that term pretty appropriate. The definition of the word -- the kind of music, art, film or theater that evokes a depressive state -- can also be expanded into the quality of seeming to enjoy that state. Both meanings are appropriate for the movie at hand, I think.

Mr. Considine (shown at left), a terrific actor under literally every circumstance in which I've seen him, has cast and then coaxed some of the finest perfor-mances of the year from his actors, particularly his two leads, Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. As over-the-top as I found the movie's central situation and the fact that both leading characters have a secret (or not so) cross to bear, either of which would be plenty to hang a movie around but together make for the kind of double whammy that can't help seeming a bit manufac-tured, I could still, not for a second, consider leaving before the movie had finished because, moment-to-moment, the performances were that real and riveting. (I have also found this to be true in some of the films in which Mr. Considine has starred. In fact, the first film which he co-wrote -- but did not direct -- Dead Man's Shoes, suffered from this same, over-the-top quality.)

In Tyrannosaur, the title of which comes from a story the Mullan characters tells about his late wife, characters and events are almost always pitched at an emergency state. The film begins with an angry, nasty drunk (our Mullan man, shown above) killing his pet dog (animal lovers will immediately despair but wait -- another dog in sent to the great fire hydrant in the sky before the movie reaches its destination). His grief for this deed seems to know no bounds but soon he is back threatening folk and breaking windows.

This leads to his "miserabilism meet-cute" with co-star, the wonderful Ms Colman (above) in the church-sponsored thrift shop where she works. Religion raises its ridiculous head for a time, but, really, neither party is all that into it. What they are into is violence and pain. One gives, without really wanting to, and the other receives, again, without at all wanting to. The third wheel is provided by the always reliable Eddie Marsan (shown in photo at bottom), who is wonderful in a two-note role.

Other than this, the supporting cast is comprised of a family across the street --  nasty father (played by Paul Popplewell, below), cowed mother, sweet son; and a good, often drunk, friend of the Mullan character, played by the fine actor Ned Dennehyshown with Colman at left, above (Dennehy is also super-fine as the sleazy snitch in the now stream-able movie Blitz, in which Considine shines in the role of a gay cop).

As I say, every single performance is terrific, so it's little wonder the film won both the World Cinema Jury Prize, Dramatic, for Breakout Performances, and the World Cinema Directing Award, Dramatic at this year's Sundance Festival. And it is not that the writing and directing are lacking, exactly; they do the job. But there is indeed that sense (as in the miserabilism definition above) of everyone somehow enjoying all this just a little too much.

Tyrannosuar, another worthwhile film from Strand Releasing, opens this Friday, November 18, in New York City at the Angelika Film Center and in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Sunset 5 and Playhouse 7.

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