Bloody hell! Why the Yanks keep letting the Brits storm Hollywood hills
Richard III has been much in the news recently and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that a movie is in the works. Now just imagine a made-in-Britain film about that English monarch with an all-British cast and an all-British plot narrated by, oh, Morgan Freeman. Or maybe by someone with a Texan drawl — say, a Matthew McConaughey.
Balderdash! you say.
Yet for some strange reason, Hollywood feels no similar revulsion when it comes to outsourcing parts of their own movies to the Brits.
Take the movie “Men, Women & Children”. It’s a depressing look at the lives of several unconnected characters and their hangups: most of the men are messed up, the women wacko and the kids crazy — all because of the Internet. In the end there’s little to redeem them, including Adam Sandler who tries again to prove that he can act. (His only roles have been stupid, stupid romantic-comic or, in movies like “Men, Women & Children,” a corpse.)
No, what struck me about this movie is the narration by Emma Thompson. Bloody hell! This ain’t Harry Potter or Mary Poppins. Yet, it’s her sole British accent that hovers above the action throughout this movie. The question is — why?
Sure, her dry British wit lends a particular charm and adds humour to parts of the movie. But the filmmaker could have captured that with some homegrown talent.
Leaving aside the debate about whether there is such a thing as a British ‘accent,’ why is it that moviemakers feel they need to have an Englishman or woman deliver lines to get us to watch their films? Especially in America!
As a Canadian, it’s in our nature to be compliant. We too were born in the British empire but, unlike our American neighbours, we never rebelled.
How it is that Americans can tolerate a conceit in which all-American movie is told by the likes of a Mary Poppins is beyond me. Where is your rebellious spirit, America!
I’m not the first to decry this phenomenon in the movies.
I’m also not referring to the use of British accents in historical or period pieces. (Although I too question the use of ‘the Queen’s Latin’ in a movie like “Les Miserables,” which was set in 19th century France.)
I certainly don’t begrudge the use of British accents in recent films like “Theory of Everything” and “Far from the Madding Crowd.” They are, after all, about British characters or set in England.
It’s this random sprinkling of Englishness in a movie like “Men, Women & Children” that makes me wonder.
Is it possible that, as Bill Maher put it, this acceptance of the Queen’s Latin in their movies is an admission that Americans know you “are not a serious people?”
I find myself shaking my head in disbelief when I hear the disembodied voice of Mary Poppins telling me about the action on the screen of “Men, Women & Children” which, Montreal-born director Jason Reitman aside, is about as American as apple pie and guns. Maybe they should have considered McConaughey as narrator. After all, the writer of the book that the film was based on grew up in Texas.
Men, Women & Children borrows from Carl Sagan’s book “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.” In it, he writes
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
And that ‘everyone’, dear moviegoer, includes a Brit or two.