Friday, May 12, 2017

Gillies MacKinnon's WHISKY GALORE is a charming, spirited remake of the 1949 original

Pay absolutely no attention to today's New York Times sour and incomprehensible review of WHISKY GALORE, a very smart and spirited remake of the popular 1949 movie directed by Alexander Mackendrick. Rather than try to "modernize" the remake, as the Times reviewer suggests, director Gillies MacKinnon (shown below) and screenwriter Peter McDougal wisely stick to the original -- which was low-key and delightful then -- and come up with a film that is low-key and delightful now.

This tale -- of a small island off Scotland during World War II that is suddenly deprived of its liquor and a sailing vessel (three photos below) full of the stuff that is suddenly moored on the rocks just off-shore -- proves a sweet, succulent story that gives a fine ensemble cast the chance to shine together. The movie also captures the look and feel of its 1940s era with ease and charm, and the behavior of the actors is quite in keeping with that time and place. There is, thankfully, no inclusion of the kind of "modern" nonsense -- foul language, fart jokes, hot sex or fast car chases -- that some less skillful filmmakers might use to "update" this old-fashioned tale.

Instead we get an ensemble of townsfolk who are, each in his/her way, specific and amusing, and who join together to bring booze back to its rightful place. (Teatotalers, I would guess, need not bother to view this one.) It's all enchanting and full of charm and the kind of coincidence that is necessary and indeed works well in this sort of movie.

The cast is large and swell, with the most prominent name being that of Eddie Izzard, above, who plays what the film posits as something close to the villain's role. He's sweetly funny and nasty, but even his comeuppance is tinged with love, as his wife assures him that his arrest is just a "slap on the wrist."

That wife is played by the wondrous Fenella Woolgar (if you've never seen her award-calibre performance in Bright Young Things, please do). I have dearly hoped to see Ms Woolgar in another role as good as that, but until then, this one will do nicely.

As the island's grumpy postmaster with two highly marriageable daughters, Gregor Fisher (above) is terrific. But then so is everyone else. And MacKinnon and McDougal see to it that the tone, style and speed of all this adheres beautifully to the era at hand.

From Arrow Films and running a just-right 98 minutes, Whisky Galore opens today in New York City at the Cinema Village and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3

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