The glass is half full – Arthur review

Arthur – Starring Russell Brand, Greta Gerwig and Helen Mirren. Directed by Jason Winer. Rated PG. By Simon Miraudo.

Jason Winer’s remake of Arthur is riddled with clichés, suffers from a trite – occasionally offensive – screenplay, and has flatter direction than any Russell Brand vehicle deserves. That being said, I could watch the hilarious and crudely-erudite Brand and the endlessly appealing mumblecore-maven Greta Gerwig flirt for hours on end. All I ever really require from a romantic comedy is likable leads – at this point in my life, I’ve made peace with the fact that these movies will recycle the same plot time and time again – and that is what Arthur delivers. I must admit that I’ve not seen the 1981 original starring Dudley Moore in the titular role; I have no doubt that it’s better than this. Still, if you’re a fan of Brand, or, like me, have been eagerly awaiting the brilliant Gerwig’s stratospheric ascent into stardom, you’ll be able to take away something from Arthur.

Brand stars as the eponymous hero; heir to a $950 million fortune and professional manchild. Arthur Bach spends his days drinking and purchasing famous movie vehicles (Batmobile, DeLorean etc.) for his driver Bitterman (Luis Guzman) to escort him in, much to the chagrin his longtime nanny Hobson (a fun Helen Mirren). When mummy (Geraldine James) threatens to cut him off from his inheritance, he’s forced to marry the terrifying Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner); a businesswoman who can be relied on to continue the Bach organisation. But wait! When Arthur runs into manic-pixie-dream-girl Naomi (Gerwig) he finds something in the world he loves more than money, and is forced to choose (but not really) between endless riches and a soul mate.

So, I hardly need to tell you that Arthur is light on surprises. Frankly, I got bored writing that synopsis, and I feel bad for all of you that had to read it, but the film’s events/machinations really are conveyed in as lackluster a manner as I begrudgingly typed them out. In fact, I left out a whole bunch of lame conventions that you wouldn’t believe are still being used by screenwriters today (“Does anyone object to this wedding?). Worst of all is the depiction of Arthur’s alcoholism – totally toothless in this PG-rated flick, completely without consequences or stakes, and disrespectful to those who must actually endure this affliction. Also upsetting is the character of Susan; she’s the kind of vapid, confusingly motivated caricature of a harpy that Garner should have started turning down five years ago. Every time she popped up on screen, I just felt bad for her. Thankfully, she shares a number of moments with Nick Nolte – playing her father – who is so perplexingly awful and unnecessary it distracts from every other problem in the film.

But the film has enough (just) going for it to forgive these transgressions. What can’t be spelt out in the synopsis is Brand’s inherent electricity. Don’t get me wrong; if you’re not already a fan of his shtick, you’re unlikely to be converted here. Yet, even in a family-friendly comedy, his comic chops, quick wit and charming cadence all shine through. He struggles in the film’s half-hearted dramatic moments (which is peculiar considering his own history with substance abuse), but it feels more like he’s betrayed by an empty script and a less-than-capable director (Winer’s only notable credit prior to this is the TV show Modern Family). Gerwig, meanwhile, is great at every turn, and the moments she shares with Brand are the kind of delightful highlights that keep this genre alive. Even in the laziest of films, you can’t dismiss the appeal of a laddish Englishman and a sweetly spunky American.


Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Arthur is now showing in Australian cinemas.

One Response to “The glass is half full – Arthur review”

  1. This film did not have a good moment in it for me. It felt mawkish, predictable, cliched and had me cringing in the inevitable intimate scenes. Not a patch on the original “Arthur”, which wasn’t that great anyway, but at least you knew that Dudley Moore had great presence as an accomplished musician and comedian. This Arthur was a completely annoying child.

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