Unbelievably excruciating film by first time director Dante Ariola based on a screenplay by Becky Johnson. Colin Firth as “Arthur” intends to create a fresh start for himself, but then he picks up damaged girl (Emily Blunt in faux Audrey Hepburn mode) as a traveling companion. Egregious waste of time & talent. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.
See a new film starring Colin Firth? And Emily Blunt is his co-star? Count me in!
Um, well, on second thought…
Sadly, I must report that Dante Ariola’s new film Arthur Newman is unbelievably excruciating, and less than halfway through, I was already ready to run. But these are the times, Dear Reader, that I grit my teeth until the final credits roll for your sake, just to make sure I can do justice to the full screen experience. So I stayed in my seat and I saw every single bit, and now I can steer you away with a completely clear conscience.
In brief: A middle aged man named “Walter Avery” (Colin Firth) fakes his own death on a Florida beach, then heads off in a fancy new sports car. But on his very first night on the lam, he takes pity on a drug-addled waif with the nickname “Mike” (Emily Blunt), and pesto chango, they’re soon playing wacky sex games as they follow the setting sun to the mythical West.
Meanwhile, back in Florida, Walter’s adolescent son “Kevin” (Lucas Hedges) leaves his comfortable suburban home (where his mother now lives with a new husband). Arriving at Walter’s “bachelor” apartment, he finds a bedroom all fitted out with sports memorabilia. It’s a room meant for him, of course, but apparently he’s never been there before.
Surprise! Another person also has keys to this apartment, a woman named “Mina” (Anne Heche) who is presumably Walter’s girlfriend. But we never very learn much about either Mina or Kevin’s mother. Are we to assume that Walter’s tender affection for Mike is sufficient proof—in and of itself—that Walter could not possibly be to blame for the failure of his previous relationships? Who knows! Kevin and Mina are left alone in Florida to ponder the mystery of Walter’s life while Walter, now calling himself “Arthur Newman” invents himself anew.
Although Dante Ariola is a first time director, screenwriter Becky Johnson comes to the project with prestigious prior credits. She wrote Seven Years in Tibet (which starred Brad Pitt) for director Jean-Jacques Annaud, and she worked with Pat Conroy on The Prince of Tides screenplay for director Barbara Streisand (for which they both received Oscar nominations in the Best Adapted Screenplay category). According to IMDb, she is now working with Kurt Wimmer on a sequel to his 2010 Angelina Jolie hit Salt. So far, so good. And yet, the Arthur Newman screenplay is terrible.
What happened? Did Audrey Hepburn come to her in a dream and whisper: “Wouldn’t it be fun to turn ‘Holly Golightly’ Goth?”
Blake Edwards used a perfect comic touch when he worked with screenwriter George Axelrod on the adaptation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. So even though we all knew better, we still enjoyed scenes like the Halloween Masks scene (the scene in which Hepburn and George Peppard do a bit of petty pilfering). It looked like a lark, but deftly set us up for the inevitable comeuppance.
But, alas, there is no charm whatsoever in comparable scenes in Arthur Newman. The scenes in which Mike gussies up in order to lure Walter into other women’s beds are embarrassing, and the great reveal about Mike’s sister (modeled on Doc Golightly’s reveal about Holly’s brother?) also falls flat.
That said, Emily Blunt still manages to give Mike an interior life and I’ll admit she wrested a moment of emotion from me in her final scene with her sister. She’s a lovely actress and even here she almost manages to rise above the idiocy.
But Colin Firth has no such luck. This film is a real stain on an excellent career (capped by his Oscar for The King’s Speech in 2011), and those of you who have loved him since he played “Mr. Darcy” in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice had best stay away.
And now, Dear Reader, I have done my duty and I never want to hear the name “Arthur Newman” ever again!
Photo Credits: Michael Tackett/Cinedigm