Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pointless Agony Without Genuine Surrealism Is What One Finds In A Handful Of Dust!

The Good: People look good, generally
The Bad: It's impossible to care. Dull, Poorly written, Poorly put together, Agonizingly bad characters
The Basics: In the terribly boring movie A Handful Of Dust, a couple, together for no apparent reason, splits for little reason and the woman ends up poor and the man ends up in the jungle.

Every now and then, a movie comes along that makes you sit up and say "What?!" This is not that movie. Following watching A Handful Of Dust, I was so bored and disgusted at the waste of time, I popped the disc out of the DVD player before it could crap up any future discs that would occupy the space. The most response I could muster up was "Why did I sit through all of this?" The answer, ultimately, was that I am just not the kind of person to give up on a movie.

A Handful Of Dust tells the story of Tony and Brenda Last, a well-off British couple living in the past. I could look up the year, but it's not worth it. Truly. Here's the plot. The movie begins, it plods along, and then it (mercifully) ends. The film starts with Tony and Brenda together and Tony seems quite busy with his own stuff and Brenda seems quite bored. Brenda finds herself in the company of John Beaver, who is infatuated with Brenda and whom Brenda seems inclined to play around with. Brenda desires a flat away from Tony, so Tony puts up the money for it and Brenda essentially sets up a love nest.

The results are not steamy, sultry, or even interesting. Instead, any genuine love happens off-screen (this movie is PG) and there is little or no real passion between Brenda and John or Tony and anyone. So, while Brenda and Tony are separated from one another, their little foul-mouthed child dies, Brenda is put on an allowance at her new dive and everyone runs out of money. Tony ends up in the jungle with a crazy man and by that point, we wonder why we sat through it.

I desperately hope A Handful Of Dust was not Sir Alec Guinness's last film. If so, that makes his death even more of a tragedy. Where to start? What's good: the people look good. They are well-costumed and the cinematography is pretty decent.

But even the cinematography is compromised by a series of bad edits. Throughout the film, there are disturbing and abrupt cuts where the image changes drastically. There is little to no cohesive flow between scenes or even within several key scenes.

The acting is terrible. Not a single actor or actress stands out as giving a performance that is remotely interesting to watch. Kristin Scott Thomas and James Wilby are both terribly bland and there is absolutely no chemistry between them, begging the question from the first frames "why were they chosen for this film?" Wilby is especially monolithic and fails to emote in any meaningful way throughout the movie. Thomas progresses her character into an affair without any real passion or motivation. Rupert Graves is similarly underused and wasted as John Beaver. And it is a miracle that Judi Dench, Anjelica Huston and Sir Alec Guinness agreed to be in this movie; their roles are entirely minor and their talents are wasted in the piece.

None of the characters are likable or even interesting. Aside from being portrayed as bland by actors who seem bored from their earliest parts in the film, the characters themselves are uninteresting. They have no spark of life, no zest. One talks about work and is boring, the other sits around bored. And when the movie shifts - with some abruptness - into the jungle, the pace does not pick up, we just sit and wonder why we haven't turned it off yet.

Are you bored yet reading this? If not, I have failed to do my job. This is a thoroughly uninteresting movie with nothing to recommend it. It is slow, passionless, and agonizing in its lack of intrigue. Instead, it plods along pointlessly and my desire to write no more about it is eclipsed only by this sentiment; if you go against my advise and watch A Handful Of Dust, you are likely to be impressed that I mustered up enough energy afterward to write this much.

[Thud, as my head hits the keyboard] ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . . .

For other works with Anjelica Huston, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Big Year
The Darjeeling Limited
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
The Royal Tenenbaums
The Mists Of Avalon
Ever After: A Cinderella Story
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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