There is no doubt in my mind which type of movie
articles are hardest to write. I just hate it when I have to review a
competent, well-intentioned, good-hearted film that I really hated to watch.
And now I have to do it again.
What is there to write about? I have no enthusiasm
to share, but I don't want to dis the film the way I would with a shameless,
just-for-profit zombie film, because the people who created this movie had
sincere hearts and high aspirations. The film was directed by Lord Richard
Attenborough, who once directed some fine films, including Gandhi, a Best
Picture and Best Director winner. I also enjoy Young Winston, Chaplin, Oh What
a Lovely War, and Magic. As a producer, Lord Dick helped to create some of my
favorite offbeat films when I was in high school and college: The L-Shaped
Room, Whistle Down the Wind (which people should watch at Christmas instead of
It's a Wonderful Life), and Seance on a Wet Afternoon. Lord Dick has given
my life a lot of great moments, so I really don't want to go negative on him.
But I do think it's probably time for him to
retire gracefully at 84. Closing the Ring will probably not be
released theatrically in North America. Attenborough's previous film, The Grey Owl,
also had to
endure the ignominy of a straight-to-video American release. The film before
that was the one where Chris O'Donnell played Ernest Hemingway, and it's rated
a lowly 5.5 at IMDb. Lord Dick's last successful film was made 15 years ago.
Closing the Ring is a multi-generational romance
which is split between two different locations (North Carolina and Belfast)
and two different eras (WW2 and now). In 1943, a dying American airman gives a
ring to an Irish local to return to his girlfriend in the states. Fifty years
later, a man finds the ring, learns its history, and finally tracks down the
girlfriend. The portion which takes place in the present stars
all sorts of elderly actors of the kind who might call Larry King "kid," and whose
names usually appear in print after the adjective "distinguished." There's
Christopher Plummer, Pete Postlethwaite, and Shirley MacLaine. It's a
six-hanky film about
lost love, and it's filled with romance, emotion, sentiment, warmth, wisdom and insight.
Some people loved it, like
Urban Cinefile, in which reviewer Andrew Urban
wrote a glowing review which will go a long way toward telling you whether
you'll like it:
"Rich with elements that
cannot and should not be summarised here, Closing the Ring abounds with truths
about the human condition that are both beautiful and painful, noble and
savage. The story revolves around promises made by lovers that cannot and
should not be kept if keeping them denies the joy of living. There are several
threads of love in the story, all of them to do with romantic love of the
first order, yet the film has grit and pain and suffering in spades. It also
has a sense of humour about character, including a lovely performance by
Brenda Fricker as grandma Reilly, whose youthful wartime romantic escapades
are revealed in embarrassing detail. It's a film that is epic in emotional
terms, and perhaps old fashioned in the best possible sense - dealing with the
lifelong impact of our most powerful emotions, as experienced through the
lives of the people next door."
On the other hand, I couldn't make it through more than fifteen
minutes at a time without a break. It's like watching Lawrence Welk. You might aptly re-title it Bored of the Rings and market it to young
people as an insomnia cure. The target audience must consist of romantic
pre-teens who have never seen any similar romances, and women in their 70s and
80s who are nostalgic for the way films used to be. On the other hand, to be fair, I could enjoy this
film under certain circumstances. It would require the following:
(1) I would need to acquire a minimum of one
(2) I would have to buy a time machine and be
transported to 1959;
(3) I would have to watch this film at the old RKO
Palace theater on Clinton Avenue. (It was downtown and incredibly ornate, with
one screen and 3000 seats. See below.
That would work, because Closing the Ring is not a
bad film. It is simply a chick-flick which is out of its own time.