Director: Richard Bracewell
Starring: Laura Fraser, Richard E Grant, Tamsin Greig, Antonia Bernath
The One Where I Screen Cuckoo
Shit. Do I tell you now, or wait? Wait… No… Tell them… It’s important… It will affect this review…
Looks at the floor, looks at the ceiling, looks at floor again… scuffs shoes on the floor. Makes nervous whelping sound.
So anyway, Cuckoo comes out on DVD and Blu Ray on Monday, 28th February.
Did I know that before Phil sent the screener my way? No.
Would I have given it a second chance if I had seen it in my local video shop? Maybe.
Maybe? What would have swayed me? Well, put simply, a film that creeps in under the radar, with or with out one of the darlings of British cinema, needs to work hard to jump out. It’s just a box.
(That covers my Blu Ray is better than DVD theory because the cases are Blue. It’s a ridiculous theory, of course, as they all look the same next to each other. But a DVD sat next to a Blu Ray? No contest.)
Sat there in your local video shop, (they’ll be no name dropping round here, thank you), a little box needs to scream at you. Rent me! Buy me! Rent/Buy me, then trade me in!
It can do that in two ways of course. One is by having a brilliant poster. No floating heads. Something original. Striking. Does Cuckoo have that?
It has two floating heads. Two. Just floating. Richard E. Grant (*Cue Gollum Moment…* TELL THEM! No. They won’t understand. TELL THEM NOW!), looking one way. An attractive looking lady looking the other way.
That’s not me being sexist. She is attractive, and crucially I have no idea who she is. IMdB corrects me on this, of course, but this film is all about Richard E Grant (TELL THEM!!). He looks a bit like Kevin Costner on the cover, which made me think two things. One, whatever happened to Costner? (Company Men = Underrated). Two, Richard is getting old.
The second way to sell a movie no one has heard of is by using words. Credit to the distributors here then for not putting, STARRING THAT GUY FROM WITHNAIL & I! in big red letters. Instead, and this is how they won me over, they put the following line.
Now, I don’t want to build this single line up too much, but it sold the film to me.
Phil had left a (very neatly written note), saying “Cuckoo First. Ta”. I of course threw that to one side and looked at the others he had sent. I felt I was owed at least that, after the postman almost destroyed my letterbox ramming them in.
What was the line? What was the line?? What would make you, of all people; sit through a film starring Richard E Grant???
OK. OK. I’ll tell you. On the plot synopsis on the back cover it said the following:
“Alone in her flat, Polly struggles to keep her grip on reality. Mysterious sounds surround her… Polly knows she’s not cuckoo, but why won’t the noises go away?”
Oh. My. God. Not only does this bring back memories of some classic movies, like say… Pacific Heights… Or Sliver… it said the words “Cuckoo” to describe someone that may or may not have gone mental. Possibly from the sounds of it, head mental, too. This is the very worse kind of mental. (PS, I’m aware it was more than a line. I apologise).
Genius writing. The cover people, not me. Obviously.
And it hasn’t even mentioned that it stars THAT GUY FROM WITHNAIL & I!! yet. (TELL THEM… THEY’LL UNDERSTAND… I can’t, Sméagol, I can’t. They’lls leaves me.)
I can’t take this. I need to email Phil.
AT: Phil. Cheers for the screeners and that. I hope Catherine is well. About Cuckoo…
Phil: What about it?
AT: It… It’s got Richard E Grant in it… Did you know?
Phil: Of course. Withnail & I is a classic isn’t it? I love it. My favorite bit is where they drive in their car. Ha-ha. Classic. There are cars in Usual Suspects, you know?
AT: Well… That’s the problem you see… I… I’m half way through Cuckoo, as you asked. I’m actually enjoying it… It’s mean, and moody. All about the dark flats, and noises in the night. Women in peril…
Phil: A bit like Pacific Heights? Or… American Beauty?
AT: Yeah… Well, No. Not the second one… Anyway… I suppose, so… But you see… Richard E Grant… I…. I sort of hate him.
AT: Phil?? I said I sort of hate him… I think Withnail & I is a load of toss… and just wondered if I could “structure” the whole review around that, so I could have sly digs at Withnail & I, and the fact that although I should LOVE British films, and the British film industry… well, essentially, I would LOVE it if The Kings Speech gets nothing on Sunday. Not even a sympathy sha…..
Phil: Adam. This has to stop. You’re good at the A, and the B, but the C? Always be closing. Ha. Glengary Glen Ross. Great film. Great film.
AT: Er… You’re being a bit… weird… What about the Richard E Grant hate?
Phil: Everything. The emails. The fixation on using these screener reviews as a chance to attack British Classics. The jealousy of that fella from A Single Man, (A Classic of our time)… It has to stop. Kill it dead. You know… like a head in a box.
Phil: Tell people why they should watch Cuckoo. Or not watch it. But stop dilly-dallying around the fact that deep down… way down there… you secretly love Richard E Grant. You think Spice World got a bad rap. You think Dracula is brilliant (I actually do). Plus he was one of the guests at Charles and Camilla’s wedding. You think that’s cool. Cool like… Maybe eating bananas and pretending to be an alien, travelling on light beams. You thin k that’s cool, right?
AT: But do I think that? Do I thin…
Phil: Well, let me put it another way… Do you ever want to review for this site again? Even though you ramble, and attack defenseless old men*? Don’t make me put you in the chair again, and paper cut you. Don’t make me; make you wish you had Superman powers, and little Superman tights to stop me.
Phil: Yeah Oh. I need to go. Kevin Spacey and me are meeting for a Whiskey.
Phil: Yeah, “Oh”. And like that… I’m gone.
AT: Are you going to say that every time you go?
AT: Oh. You’re gone.
Cuckoo is a slow burner. The set up means that it needs to play played out predominantly in dark rooms, sometimes with no lighting at all. Characters meet beside bonfires, so it’s the flicker of the fire that lights their faces.
There are scenes with long periods of silence. Then maybe a whisper.
The film is based around this whole principle. Of characters being in isolation, and on the whole it works really well.
When I first sat upright, and took it all in was bang on the hour mark. With Richard E Grant (TELL THEM!! I did, I did. Sort of), doing voice over, and our attractive Lady (A Knights Tale and Vanilla Sky apparently), going a bit stir crazy. She started running up stairs. On all fours. Wait. On all fours? Yeah, on all fours. I had been sat there hoping the growing obsession theme was going to turn all Boxing Helena on me, and this was a glimmer of hope. The recurring symmetrical shot looking down on the stairs was right up my street too. Very Kubrickian (Director, not little figures Phil subliminally makes us buy), in that often they are empty. Ominously so. By the end, we’ll hope they were.
There are bits to love, amongst the bits to like. We never do get Boxing Helena crazy. I was a bit disappointed about that, but only because I think there aren’t enough films about girls in boxes. Starring Julian Sands.
The shot that pans away when three of the leads are on the bed together? (Not necessarily as fun as it sounds). Brilliant.
The acting? Solid.
The premise? Solid.
The fact it’s by a young English Director, with genuine talent, and great control? Even better. The score is excellent, too. Especially in the closing stages as everything gets tied up (ish). Was that last look a smirk?
I still don’t “get” Richard E Grant, but this, which is his “One Hour Photo”, is far more up my street. I feel it. Down there.
Definitely worth a punt.
*I think Phil was referring to Clint Eastwood, in my harsh (but fair) assessment of Hereafter, HERE.
Enter the Cuckoo Competition for a chance to win a DVD of the film.