Friday, August 22, 2008

The Tall Guy

Directed by
Mel Smith
Written by Richard Curtis
Starring Jeff Goldblum, Emma Thompson, Rowan Atkinson, Kim Thompson

Richard Curtis one of the UKs top screenwriters.  He broke out with films like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and The tall guyLove Actually* though he made his name in the UK with things like the Blackadder TV shows.

The Tall Guy was one of the first features written by him, a very funny sex/romantic comedy.  Maybe it's not as superb as Love, Actually, but his talent is in full gear.

Dexter King (Jeff Goldblum) is an American actor living in London and working as the straight man in a comedy act starring the insufferably obnoxious Ron Anderson (Rowan Atkinson).  Dexter's role requires he take abuse -- both on stage and off -- from Anderson, who has ever bad quality a person could have, and isn't even particularly funny.

Dexter meets nurse Kate Lemmon (Emma Thompson) when visiting his doctor.  Soon they embark on a funny and passionate affair. Dexter loses his job with Anderson but it cast in the lead of a musical adaptation of The Elephant Man entitled Elephant! and jeopardizes everything when he starts an affair with his costar.

Goldblum goes through the part with his usually ironic understatement, with knowing asides that are always amusing.

And most people think of Thompson as a Serious Actress, but she really got her start in comedy.  This was her first feature role, and she has superb timing and also gets the most out of the script. And, perhaps surprisingly, the two make an excellent romantic couple. There's one particular scene, where they make love over (and in) lunch, that's one of the sexiest and most passionate scenes in film.

The production of Elephant! is a hoot. Curtis uses the opportunity to satirize Andrew Lloyd Weber with a bizarre and overwrought set of songs with such absurdities as tap dancing elephants.


The film was a modest success.  Curtis, of course went on to more success, as did most of the people involved.  Director Mel Smith (his first film, too) did a little directing, but is more noteworthy as an actor, his most noticeable role was the Albino in The Princess Bride.

It's a minor gem in Curtis's career. And remember -- Somewhere up in heaven there's an angel with big ears.

* Let's just pretend the Mr. Bean films don't exist.

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