Never say never
(Arthur, Jason Winer, USA, 2011, 110 mins)
It would not be surprising if audiences are apprehensive for this remake of the 1981 comedy written and directed by Steve Gordon and starring Dudley Moore (also Patch in Santa Claus: The Movie, 1985) with his infectious laugh. Russell Brand is an actor who is progressing in his film career confidently, and it shows with the string of films behind him that is rapidly growing such as Get Him to the Greek (2010), Despicable Me (2010), and this Easter’s Hop, but was casting him as the lead role a smart move? More amusing than in his stand-up comedies, Brand portrays billionaire Arthur Bach magnificently as childish, rebellious and sometimes, just plain stupid.
Causing devastation wherever his feet take him, Brand may lack performing serious roles as of yet, but he works within the comedy genre superbly and he connects exceptionally well with Helen Mirren as Hobson, his nanny. A complete opposite to Arthur, she is perfectly stubborn and blunt, particularly to the women that a drunken Arthur has slept with, and she steals many scenes which is surprising when she is contending with Arthur’s huge and energetic personality. Hobson is quick witted and rarely loses her patience with Arthur, she continues to be the authority of the household, but in the few and scattered sentimental scenes the tender friendship between the characters is brought to the viewer’s attention. They are a wonderful lead couple; Arthur is naïve, easily distracted but polite, and contrasted with Hobson’s sarcasm provides many comical moments, specifically when Arthur must make a cup of tea for the first time, and Hobson’s experience with a Darth Vader mask.
Brand’s vulnerability in reality is reflected throughout the film, especially when he hits rock bottom and the intense scenes where his serious gaze settles upon a bottle. Viewers may actually take a moment to appreciate what this actor has been through and the experiences he can inject into this film, alongside the many pop culture references. The threat of not keeping his inheritance and being cut off from the money is a wake up call for immature Arthur, as he is set up by his distant mother Vivienne (Geraldine James) to marry the responsible but dominating and vivacious Susan (Jennifer Garner). The mother and son relationship is entertaining, (“Hello Vivienne. I remember you when I used to live in your womb.”) and Brand’s ability to act juvenile positively shines through.
Garner was a fantastic choice, as she manipulates Brand, and is the one woman that he actually becomes afraid of in the bedroom, a scene which shows Garner in a provocative light much like her feisty Elektra (2005) persona, which can at moments be a little too intimidating. The balance of romance is mastered through the character of an unlicensed tour guide named Naomi (Greta Gerwig) who is charming and innocent with an aspiration to write for children, and whom Arthur inadvertently falls in love with. The secrecy of the two women is exciting and thrilling as they both arrive to Arthur’s house in one scene, and though Arthur’s intentions are clear, he only makes matters worse for himself, which is humorous, but eventually heart breaking. Naomi’s relationship with Arthur shows patience; she forgives his embarrassing acts and becomes besotted by this man who simply loves to sit in the bath and spy on people through gold binoculars.
Having not seen the original I cannot make any comparisons, but like most remakes, I am willing to give them a chance. From what I have seen, there are similar characteristics in the lead protagonist, such as pronunciation and facial expressions, and there are plenty of memorable moments and quotes from the new Arthur. This is very much a film about the power of money and there are some absurd romantic gestures, but they will leave audiences smiling with envy, as Brand shows he can be a soppy git, and is well on his way to a thriving comedy career even if it doesn’t continue to involve film.