Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport and get your shots, because this week we’re heading to…
the UK! Foreign Objects has been covering foreign horror this month in honor of Halloween, and now that we’re in the final week of the month and Halloween is here, I’m going to review a drama instead. What can I say, I’m a contrarian by nature. But there is some method to my madness, as this week’s film is brand new, you most likely haven’t seen it, and it’s due out on DVD next week. As a bonus, it stars Daniel Craig, so you can consider it a lead-in to November 14th when the new Bond movie is released.
Flashbacks of a Fool stars Daniel Craig as Joe Scott, a fading film star addicted to both women and alcohol. His career has fallen apart due to his antics, and his agent can’t find him a job as no one wants to work with him. Scott gets a phone call from his mother telling him that Boots, his best friend from childhood, has died. The news sends Scott into an alcohol fueled trip down memory lane, back to the days of his youth and to the events that led to his departure from England. He recalls his friendship with Boots, his affair with an older neighbor, and his failed romance with the girl that eventually became Boots’ wife.
The film teases us briefly with who Scott is today, before jumping into a long flashback to who he was as a teenager. As an adult, he spends his evenings engaged in drug-addled threesomes with women whose biggest concern is sexual stamina and nose-jobs, and his mornings waking up to his housekeeper (Eve) and a hangover. He’s selfish, abrupt, and demanding, and it’s no surprise when a hot, young director takes one look at him at lunch and passes on him for his next movie. As a teen, Scott hangs out with Boots but easily trades him in without notice for a chance to be with Ruth, an enticing and interesting girl from the city whom Boots also likes. He’s selfish, abrupt, and demanding, and you can see the character arc is slightly lacking there…
Harry Eden is Craig’s teen counterpart and he does a fine job of capturing Scott’s alternating cockiness and insecurity, albeit with a steady dose of blandness. The supporting cast is equally efficient, but with one exception their roles are too small to carry any real weight. That exception is Jodhi May as the neighbor, Evelyn Adams, whose loneliness leads her to seduce the young Scott with tragic consequences. The role is a meaty one and May tackles it with a perfect blend of sexuality and pathos.
Craig’s performance as the washed-up Scott is fascinating and compelling, and he dominates the film when he’s onscreen. The problem is that two-thirds of the movie consists of flashback leaving his role a supporting one at best and incomplete at worst. We see Scott as the bitter, alcoholic ass, then after the flashback we see him again as a reformed, wisened, repentant man. Aside from the anguish on Craig’s face and a symbolic cleansing in the ocean we see nothing of the transition or awakening within him. “Before and after” only works if we also get the “during” but Flashbacks of a Fool doesn’t give it to us.
Flashbacks of a Fool isn’t a bad movie. It’s engaging (especially when Craig’s onscreen), it’s pleasantly paced, the music is intoxicating at times, and you want to follow Scott’s journey through to his revelations of awareness. It feels like a good movie… but like the title character I deceived myself into thinking it was better than it actually was. What was really so bad about Scott’s childhood? Why does the tragedy that forced him out of England never get revealed to others? Where’s the transition from asshole to aware adult? Where’s a clearer version of the threesome without all the distorted, wavy screen effects?
Flashbacks of a Fool releases on DVD on November 4th, 2008.
The Upside: Fantastic performance from Craig; great soundtrack; some sexy seduction scenes
The Downside: Would have liked more scenes with Craig; no real resolution for Joe’s life or career; the adult Scott’s character transition from beginning to end isn’t explored or explained