Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Movie Review: "Their Finest" (2017)

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Director: Lone Scherfig
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes

A comic strip writer gets a job at the British Ministry of Information where she is asked to help write a screenplay about the evacuation at Dunkirk that will inspire and uplift their war-torn country.

"Their Finest" is a war-time romantic drama with light comedic tones directed by Lone Scherfig, who is known for her films "Italian for Beginners" and the Oscar-nominated "An Education." It is written by Gaby Chiappe and is based on the novel "Their Finest Hour and a Half" by Lissa Evans. It stars Gemma Arterton as writer Catrin Cole, who used to be a secretary and comic strip writer. She takes a job at the Ministry of Information during World War II, and she is asked to help write what is essentially a propaganda film with fellow writers Tom Buckley, played by Sam Claflin, and Raymond Parfitt, played by Paul Ritter. This group are asked to make a movie about the evacuation at Dunkirk that is an accurate, inspirational, and optimistic tale, a movie which will increase the morale of the people of England. Catrin, of course, is there to add a little bit of feminine mystique to the picture. Also in the film are Bill Nighy, Rachael Stirling, Jack Huston, Helen McCrory, Richard E. Grant, and Jack Lacy, just to name a few.

We knew very little about "Their Finest" going into it. We had seen the trailer once many months ago, but we weren't exactly stoked to see the film for one reason or another. We figured it would be another stodgy, forgettable British period piece with good critical ratings, but no real substance. The film, however, wound up being a very enjoyable, extremely surprising viewing experience. It has multiple instances of genuine, excellent humor and witty banter, as well as a few emotionally tear-jerking scenes we did not expect. We absolutely love how what is happening with the characters in the movie ties in with what is going on with the characters in the movie they are making. A movie within a movie!

Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin give superb performances as Catrin Cole and Tom Buckley. Catrin is strong and determined, but is still caring and sometimes soft-spoken, mostly when it comes to her injured artist husband Ellis, played by Jack Huston. Being a seasoned writer, Tom has a quickness about him. He's pushy and arrogant but is somehow still charming and relatable. In the beginning, as they start feeling each other out at workmates, Catrin and Tom butt heads several times, but eventually become playful and joking with one another as they develop a friendly bond. She wants to assert herself and offer a point of view worthy of the women whose story they are telling, and Tom often sides with her, but can't always get the upper echelon to comply. The two have subtle but undeniable on-screen chemistry. Bill Nighy also offers a hilarious but deep performance as the Ambrose Hilliard, the somewhat pompous, aging former leading man who reluctantly takes a smaller role as an elderly alcoholic secondary character in their film to satisfy his agent. Nighy is one of the best, argumentative with the perfect comedic timing here.

You probably haven't heard much if anything about "Their Finest" unless you went looking for it. It explores the role of women in the war effort as this group must assemble and make a film to rally support and enthusiasm at home during one of the worst times in the world's history. Not only is Catrin one of the principal writers of the story (even though she was hired to write "SLOP," or women's dialogue), but the film they are making is based on what is perceived to be the true story of Rose and Lily Starling, played by Lily and Francesca Knight. With a couple of timely, biting lines of dialogue, Catrin makes her feelings and her point known and doesn't want to compromise a woman's perspective in their project. As far as movies about making movies go, this one ranks pretty high on the list for us, especially considering we actually get to see the fruits of the work they all put into making the picture.

We are ecstatic to report this is a deeply satisfying, emotionally somber, supremely witty movie that will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and jeer. It has many individual great scenes, fantastic dialogue, and a tremendous score by Rachel Portman. It is absolutely worth checking out, and maybe you'll be as pleasantly astonished by it as we were.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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