Tom Felton film-watching (The Borrowers and Anna and the King reviewed)

Most of the kids they cast for the first Potter movie had none or little film experience. Tom Felton was AFAIK pretty much the only kid they cast, who had done any Hollywood movies beforehand, so I figured that with my current Tom Felton phase, this would be a good time to delve into them *grin* To my surprise, he has more screen time in these than in most of the Potter films…

The Borrowers (UK/USA, 1997)

Seen: Tuesday, 10th March 2009 (DVD)
Runtime: 89′
Director: Peter Hewitt
Cast: John Goodman, Mark Williams, Jim Broadbent, Flora Newbigin, Tom Felton, Raymond Pickard, Hugh Laurie
Production House: Polygram Filmed Entertainment, Working Title Films
Plot: The story of a four-inch high family that lives under the floorboards. They “borrow” things from their host family to get by (dental floss is very useful for climbing apparently).

You can see it here :)

Impressions In Short
Enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. It had me giggling a lot :)

More About the Film
It has quite a quirky sort of humour, which is probably why I enjoyed it ;)
According to imdb, this is the first feature film of Tom Felton’s career - he must have been about 10 years old. For this reason I wasn’t expecting much, but he was actually quite good *grin* I mean he just plays the comic relief (on second thought, almost everything in this film is comic relief :]). His main “function” is to complain about how he hates everything (’I hate milk‘ is a particularly memorable line ;)). But almost equally important is to be teased by his trouble-seeking older sister and have various messy accidents.
It’s generally a pretty funny film with a lot of funny characters (the policeman sooo cracked me up with his British manners and all).

Possibly :) This is very clearly aimed at kids, so if you don’t like watching films aimed at younger audiences then you probably won’t like this. But otherwise - it’s quite amusing. Although apparently fans of the book aren’t too happy with it.
Possibly a good film for Potter fans cause you’ve got Professor Slughorn fathering Draco Malfoy and Mr Weasley helping John Goodman (who plays a character named Ocious P. Potter) to exterminate them. It would make a good piece of AU fan fiction I think ;)

Anna and the King (USA, 1999)

Seen: Tuesday, 10th March 2009 (DVD)
Runtime: 148′
Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Jodie Foster, Chow Yun-Fat, Bai Ling, Tom Felton
Production House: Fox 2000 Pictures, Lawrence Ben der Productions
Plot: (from imdb)

The story of the romance between the King of Siam and the widowed British schoolteacher Anna Leonowens during the 1860’s.


Impressions In Short
My feelings are mixed. I think the story had a huge amount of potential, but it just didn’t quite come through.

More About the Film
I remember that when this was originally in cinemas in Poland (in 2000 that is) I quite wanted to go see it, although I didn’t in the end. So when I found out recently that Tom Felton was in it, I set my mind on seeing it as soon as possible *grin*
At the beginning I was pretty disappointed with it - it was just so stiff. And sure, if you’ve got a film set in the 19th century and one of your lead characters is a British imperialist and the other a Siamese king - it has to be somewhat stiff and formal. But the challenge of doing most costume dramas is precisely that - the exterior stuff has to be stiff, but underneath you should have the same range of emotions that you would normally. For the first hour (with maybe a few exceptions) they totally failed at this IMO.
It didn’t help that the setting and atmosphere seemed so fake. Maybe I’m a bit hypersensitive about accents and cultural details, but for me they’re very important in how a film feels and I think they could have done a better job with this. I mean I very much felt I was looking at modern people on a film set…
To me it felt particularly weird when the Siamese king was speaking English to his children. I imagine they were trying to minimize the amount of Thai in the movie - perhaps partly because it’s supposedly not good from a commercial standpoint and partly because I imagine Chow-Yun Fat does not speak Thai, but er… it just looked so wrong :] (especially when they did have him speak what I assume was Thai in some other scenes).
Another thing that got to me was the very aggressive feminism. I totally believe that the real Anna Leonowens was very feminist, but those were also very different times. I may be wrong, but I would assume feminism was a somewhat different attitude at a time when women in England were not allowed to vote. What I felt Jodie Foster was playing was a very modern, Western sort of feminism and it felt so out of place to me in that world. I think they should have spent a bit more time thinking about that - feminism is different in different cultural contexts.
Fortunately, after the first hour I did start warming up to it ;) I mean a lot of what I’ve written would still stand for the rest of the film, but as the relationships between the characters got more complicated, the film improved considerably and less and less scenes seemed that stiff.
And as for the acting…
Jodie Foster was totally the lead and protagonist, but unfortunately on the whole I was rather unimpressed with her. She has a nice strength and forcefulness about her, but that’s basically all that she gives to the part and she had a lot of stiff moments. I would have thought that if you end up in a foreign country on your own with a young son and haven’t yet come to terms with your husband’s death then no matter how strong a woman you are, you will still have moments when you feel very vulnerable. Those moments were even scripted, but she just didn’t seem to be able to play them vulnerably *sigh*
Chow Yun-Fat was at his best in scenes of emotional intimacy. There’s a really beautiful warmth about him. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why I enjoyed the film more as it went on - he had a lot more scenes of that sort in the second half. There were a couple of scenes in which he really stunned me. The first one was actually one of the few moments in the first half of the film that I liked ;) It was his first night with a new concubine. It’s a totally PG kind of scene with no dialogue (she bows, putting her forehead to the floor as he enters cause that’s how you greet the king in Siam and he fondles her face and smiles at her), but both he and Bai Ling were great and managed to imply a lot ;) Then there’s the death of one of his 68 children (he’s generally great at playing the relationship with his kids, but that scene was a total stunner). And another one I thought was great was when he kisses the palm of Anna’s hand (so chaste and yet… *grin*). Actually, I think the main reason why the romance between Anna and the king worked at all was him ;-P Honestly, he should consider doing more romance *grin* He did have his stiff moments too unfortunately *sigh* But I think I’ve finally become a fan ;)
As for my motivation to see the film - Tom Felton was as stiff as everybody else ;-P He was only 12 or so of course, so I guess I shouldn’t have expected much, but after seeing The Borrowers I felt they could have gotten a lot more out of him. There were certainly lines in this, which he could have done to much better effect (’Mother, what’s a concubine?‘ should have been hilarious *sigh*). The weird thing was that just as I had stopped expecting him to do much more than look the part, he suddenly put in a scene that totally threw me and then just reverted to being stiff again ;) The scene in question is after he steels a cigar and tries to smoke it, which just makes him very sick. Anna is telling him off fondly and nursing him and then suddenly he throws a question at her - ‘Is that why you like him? Because he reminds you of father? The king, I mean.‘. Somehow, the way he says it, he gets all the subtexts out *grin* He’s testing her, trying to judge what’s going on by her reaction to the question (when she denies, it’s clear from his expression that he’s sceptical), but also accusing her of insulting his father’s memory. It’s a pretty loaded scene. Annoyingly enough, Jodie Foster remains stiff throughout it *sigh*

I don’t know… I mean there are definitely some very interesting aspects to it (I was actually surprised by how interesting the whole British colonial thing was and how much potential the cultural clash of it had etc.) and I think a lot of people *would* enjoy it. But to me it’s a film of interesting moments, which don’t make a good whole.
However, I definitely think that if you like Chow Yun-Fat this is worth seeing - he has a couple of stunning scenes, seriously :)

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