The quandary here is obvious.
How do I write a blog post about a film I really enjoyed, without spending the next thousand words saying how much I love Fiona Shaw? I suspect a thousand words of that would become tedious, and creepy. Let’s face it – it would be creepy first.
I have decided to focus on Roger Allam. He plays, after all, the lead in the film. There’s no way he should be an after thought. He is an absolute delight in ‘The Hippopotamus’. Not necessarily sympathetic, but utterly wonderful; eloquent and articulate, saying everything we wish we had the words for at the time, but somehow never do.
A glass of whisky in the bath seems like the height of decadence, and now I have plans for the weekend. I don’t think shower-situated beverages will ever become the standard. My showers will be sober, sad but true.
Based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Fry, ‘The Hippopotamus’ is the story of Ted, a former poet who could have been laureate, now a whiskey-addled and recently fired journalist and critic. He has been charged by his goddaughter with the task of investigating a series of supposed miracles which have occurred at a country estate owned by friends of the family.
I do love the idea of a critic calling out the next line to the broken actor, struggling with Titus Andronicus. The gold pants for the Roman soldiers were a brave choice. I think I’ve been retweeted once or twice by the chap on the right. Strange that I’m now seeing him in gilded underwear.
If we haven’t guessed already, I’m writing this whilst watching.
Alright, there’s some swearing. Rather a lot of it, I have warned my Movie Nighters.
But my word, the voice on Roger Allam. Cliché, perhaps, but he could read the phone book. This film is wordy, it is very intricate, articulate, a joy for those with literary leanings and a puzzle for those of us who often wonder how an actor remembers so many lines.
I’ve wandered back into my memory. There was a moment there when Roger Allam sniffed what might have been a water decanter, or possibly a vase.
When I was four, my mother sent me to the sitting room to retrieve some daffodils which had started to turn. I ran out, and returned seconds later with the limp, sticky-stemmed flowers clasped tightly in my fist.
“Where’s the vase?” my mother asked.
Out I went again, and returned with the vase.
My mother glanced down into the clay pot she had crafted in some evening class or other. It’s base was thick and dark, and very nearly dry.
“Petrina, where’s the water?”
I still blame a possible dead-daffodil poisoning for my lack of reasonable height.
This film is about the question of miracles. Miracles as a concept can be rather troubling. For those who believe in them, I don’t think there’s any need to burst the bubble. For those with cynicism by the pound, it must be extremely tiring.
Ted is a man after my own heart, packing a bottle with his shoes.
There’s some cracking photography and an excellent soundtrack.
The problem with a stately home is that everything needs polishing, all the time.
When I first watched this film, a couple of weeks ago, I thought my brain would strangle itself trying to remember where I knew the miracle boy from. It was ‘Waterloo Road’ – I googled.
A bath and a nap, these are the afternoon plans of Ted, these are life goals for me.
The wanderings into iambic pentameter of the teenage poet are frightfully familiar.
The film is clever and dapper and oh lord, there she is. With flowers. Okay, so I love Fiona Shaw.
Aimée hasn’t watched this film with me. Before anyone starts wondering, I’ll explain. It’s all very equitable. Without a doubt, Aimée would gladly throw me under a bus for Jessica Lange. I would understand that. And, as such, I allow myself a little heart-flutter for Fiona Shaw.
To describe a sweethearted girl as ‘absolutely bat-infested’ makes me feel a total, unrelenting kinship with Ted. Rude and funny, it’s a difficult mix. Takes a level of finesse which is not easily learnt.
The party are having dinner. There’s the husband, lord of the manor, American and quaffed; Roger Allam, louche, with a voice you could take a nap in; the French woman, immaculate and internationally-inclined. And good Lord but she has cheekbones for days. My word, but there’s a lot of accent going on around that table.
Okay, so the kid has just offered a self-penned poem about masturbation to his godfather. Setting up the goalposts here: that’s not especially comfortable.
Now, is it me – “time for a second stanza of your mother’s cream cake”. And every time Ted sees Anne, he’s wet. I may be reading more into this than is strictly necessary but, it seems to me there’s a lot more going on here (how the hell do they keep that lawn so tidy?) than meets the eye.
Wellies and the aristocracy. I don’t know how, but they wear wellies differently from people.
And the Frenchwoman doesn’t understand the obsession with sex, she seems more than a little disdainful of it, and yet – isn’t that what she’s brought her teenage daughter to this country estate for?
So.. miracles. When handed the task, one must examine what is and what is not there, if only for a more complete understanding of what might be.
My fondness for the lead actress has seen me liked and retweeted by the director. For this, I take pride by the spoon.
I was getting a bit worried about ‘The Hippopotamus’: being very wordy, infused with swearing and punctuated with uncomfortable mentionings of sex, I had concerns for my people, and their delicate sensibilities.
I have now watched ‘Sordid Lives’ – this can be my new yard stick. I have yet to show anything with a busty psychiatrist aggressively getting her knockers out in order to “cure” a terrified gay man. Thank the Lord.