Tag Archives: Netflix

SNEAK PREVIEW: Four stage & screen lions in their prime dare, delight & dazzle us in The Performance

Writer-director Stephen Wallis’ hypnotic new film The Performance is all about the excruciating pain and exquisite pleasure of being a working actor. And what makes it so hypnotic are the mesmerizing performances of the four working actors who bring it to life: Nicholas Campbell, Graham Greene, Art Hindle and Nick Mancuso.

All four are 40-year-veterans of stage, screen and television, still in demand, still working. All four still know how to dazzle us. And all four still know how to surprise us.

MANCUSO: astonishing tour-de-force

As the film opens, arrogant aging actor Victor Moore is preparing for what is purportedly his final stage performance. Addicted to melodrama and the deep, rich sound of his own celebrated voice, Victor is about to present his tried-and-true autobiographical theatre piece, despite the objections of Dennis, his cheerfully alcoholic director. “There’s more fantasy in this script than a Tolkien novel,” Dennis chides him. “Show the audience the truth.”

Sparked by Dennis’ goading, Victor reluctantly starts to confront the ghosts that still haunt him. Raised by parents who played the vaudeville circuit, he has never forgiven his mother for leaving him in the questionable care of his father. “Other mothers stayed, but not you!” he storms at the  30-year-old incarnation of his mother.

CAMPBELL: Spellbinding

He has never forgiven his father, Harold, either. 

Especially not his father.

After all, Harold was only a song-and-dance man. Victor was a star.

“Did you think you were better than me, son?” Harold asks him.

“I made 300 movies!” Victor spits back at him.

Harold shrugs. “Let’s not confuse fame with talent.”

Victor knows quite a bit about fame. And scandal. And why his clandestine love affair ended so badly. He could not, would not sacrifice his career; he was not willing to be banished from the screen for a youthful indiscretion.
In those days, he notes, “The movies could talk, but we could not.”

GREENE: buoyant

As the minutes fly by Victor starts to suspect that this is more intervention than rehearsal, and we start to suspect the same thing. But then his old friend Jack, another key player in his life, stops by to surprise him, and Victor remembers what fun acting used to be, when they played Hamlet together in this very theatre. It’s Jack who teases and cajoles him into finding his inner child again. And it is the nimble Jack, and only Jack, who can coax Victor to park all his theatrical baggage, albeit temporarily, to come out and play.

“Actors are actors,” Victor insists, “because they lack the ability to perform in real life.” And yet, what can he do? Victor’s greatest love, his relentless passion, his hopeless obsession, is acting.

“I have to do this!” he protests. “It’s who I am.”

HINDLE: powerful

As director Wallis’ screenplay twists and turns to take us to both familiar and unexpected places, The Performance becomes an extravagant, richly detailed love letter to actors and their craft, never quite resolving the dilemma of that choice.

It’s also a spectacular showcase for a sensational quartet of actors whose considerable talents are too often taken for granted. Nick Mancuso’s portrayal of Victor is an astonishing tour-de-force filled with bold strokes and audacious choices. As pretentious as Victor is – and he is — he takes no prisoners, and neither does Mancuso, whether he is roaring like a lion, whining like a schoolboy or whimpering like an abandoned child. This is a performance to reckon with.

(Off-screen Mancuso has been picking up a lot of hardware lately; a Best Actor award here, a Lifetime Achievement award there. It’s not hard to see why.)

As Dennis, the director with whom Victor has the time-honoured love-hate relationship, Art Hindle is a powerful sparring partner for Mancuso, conveying a potent mix of cunning and self-loathing with a haunting edge of sadness. Graham Greene is a buoyant, irrepressible Jack, bubbling with mischief, riffing on Shakespeare and salvation. And Nicholas Campbell is spellbinding as Victor’s practical, unsentimental father, reciting Dylan Thomas to his estranged son.

SHANNON: stellar

Two other performances that bring new and intriguing dimensions to Victor’s troubled reveries are especially worth noting. Polly Shannon, still as luminous and as lovely as she was when she played Margaret Trudeau 15 years ago, makes a stellar contribution as the actress assigned to play Victor’s much-maligned mother. And Sienna Guillory adds a wistful melancholy to the proceedings as Victor’s disappointed but still devoted daughter.

I don’t know if The Performance will be coming to a movie theatre near you or if Netflix will snap it up first. But if you enjoy films about show business and actors, add this one to your Must list.

Ed. note: Writer-director Stephen Wallis is clearly an actor’s director. After finishing The Performance, Wallis wrote and directed a new film, Defining Moments, with Burt Reynolds and – among others – Nicholas Campbell, Graham Greene, Sienna Guillory and Polly Shannon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Lifetime grows black Magnolias, Israel sparks MIPtv sales, Nancy’s just Foolin’ and the Junos get Feist-y

LATIFAH: steel lady

FLICKERS: Dynamic leading ladies Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard and Phylicia Rashad have signed on for Lifetime‘s all-black remake of Steel Magnolias, taking over the roles originally played by Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine and Sally Field.No word yet as to who will  be cast in the Olympia Dukakis and Julia Roberts roles …  looking for some laughs this weekend? Servitude is the first film to be developed and workshopped through the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab, the CFC Film Program in collaboration with Just For Laughs, and it opens today with a stellar cast — Joe DinicolJohn BregarLinda Kash, Lauren CollinsAaron AshmoreEnrico Colantoni, Margot

DINICOL: in service

Kidder, and Dave Foley.  Directed by Warren P. Sonada and written by co-producer Michael Sparaga, it looks like a lot of fun … left-wing heroine Jane Fonda will remind us what a good actress she is when she plays right-wing Republican former first lady Nancy Reagan in Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  An Oscar nominee for directing Precious, Daniels describes The Butler as a sprawling historical drama that centers on Eugene Allen, a black man who worked as butler in the White House under eight presidents. Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker is slated to play Allen, and insiders say ardent Daniels supporter Oprah Winfrey may play one of the many supporting roles …and Marcelle Lean‘s 15th Cinefranco filmfest wraps up this weekend at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Hot titles include Ma Part Du Gateau/My Piece Of The Pie, one of

SUTHERLAND: worldwide

the films celebrated on last month’s 12th Floating Film Festival, and L’Art D’Aimer/The Art Of Love. For Cinefranco program notes click here.

BRAVE NEW WORLDS: Did you see the premiere of Kiefer Sutherland’s new series Touch last week on Global? If you did, you had plenty of company. Touch premiered almost simultaneously in 100 countries and territories. In the U.S. it screened on Fox; in Germany, on ProSieben; in Russia, on Channel One. New-world executive thinking indicates that the worldwide premiere signifies a new way of doing business that attracts multinational advertisers (Unilever is a sponsor of the series around the world) and attacks online piracy … also making history: the Adam Beach series Arctic

BEACH: hit series

Air, which averaged almost a million viewers a week in its debut season, the largest audience to follow the first season of a CBC Television drama series in 15 years.  Other CBC shows more than one million viewers weekly include Dragons’ Den, Republic Of Doyle and The Rick Mercer Report. So somebody must be doing something right … Israeli TV formats may prove to be the big buzz at this year’s MIPtv. The annual international television convention opens Sunday in Cannes with a red carpet gala screening of Julian FellowesTitanic, already sold in 86 countries, but it’s the shows from Israel sparking the most interest. HBO‘s In Treatment and Showtime‘s Homeland are both based on hit Israeli TV series. Another Israeli series, The Naked Truth,  a suspense thriller set entirely in an interrogation room, has already been picked up by HBO

WHITE: April Foolin'

for an American remake, and NBC has ordered a pilot called Midnight Sun, based on the Israeli show Pillars of Smoke, about a female FBI agent who uncovers a conspiracy. Other hot prospects at next-week’s four-day marathon in the south of France: Mr. Selfridge, a period drama about the life of the flamboyant founder of the London department story; Tom Fontana‘s Copper, about a police officer in 1860s New York City; the psychological thriller Hemlock Grove, already snapped up by Netflix; the period mini-series Madame Tussauds; dramatic series Hannibal, already sold to NBC; World Without End, a follow-up mini-series to Pillars Of The Earth; and Sinbad, BBC’s update on the tale of the

FEIST: Junos telecast

8th century swashbuckler who battles monsters and visits magical places.

NO PEOPLE LIKE SHOW PEOPLE: Music man Jack de Keyser strums his stuff tomorrow night at Simcoe Jazz & Blues in Oshawa … perennial crowd-pleaser Nancy White headlines the April Fool’s Matinee this weekend at the trendy Green Door cabaret with pianist Bob Johnston, percussionist Marsha Coffey and singers Ghislain Aucoin, Suzy Wilde, Barb Johnston, Maddy Wilde, Eddy Be, Stella Walker, Bridget Carter-Whitney, Mavis Lyons and Mike O’Hara. “Do not be frightened by the number of singers and the fact that the show is on a Sunday,”

McLACHLAN: singing Sunday

adds the irreepressible Ms. Walker. “No gospel music will be presented. That is our pledge to you.” Showtime is 3 pm  this Sunday April 1, For ticket info click hereMaggie Cassella hosts her own April 1 send-up, Liar Liar Pants On Fire, Sunday night at The Flying Beaver Pubaret. “It’s an April Fools Day event where YOU get up on stage and tell a whopper of a story. The audience votes on weather they think it’s true or false. If you fool them you win a prize!” … and now that deadmau5 and Madonna have called a truce, his fans can see him on Sunday night’s Juno Awards telecast on CTV. Also set to rock the premises: Blue Rodeo, City and Colour, Feist, Hedley, Hey Rosetta!, K’NAAN, Lights, MC Flipside, Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan, and Simple Plan.

Happy weekend!

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