Sunday 7 December 2008

Dean Spanley (2008) - ickleReview (cinema)

In early twentieth-century England, in the aftermath of the Boer War, an adult son by the name of Frisk (Jeremy Northam) visits his curmudgeonly father (Peter O'Toole) every Thursday. One afternoon they go to a lecture about the transmigration of souls, where they encounter for the first time Dean Spanley (Sam Neill), a minister in a local church with, it turns out, a taste for Imperial Tokay, a Hungarian sweet wine. They bump into him again at Frisk Senior's gentlemen's club. After a third encounter in the church grounds, Frisk Junior invites him to dinner and discovers that the Tokay awakens in Dean Spanley an odd behaviour. I will not say more as it will spoil the charm of the plot.

The highlight of this harmless diversion is Peter O'Toole's masterful performance as a grumpy old man with a sharp tongue and a pocketful of withering one-liners. Judy Parfitt also excells in the supporting role of Frisk Senior's cynical old housekeeper, Mrs Brimley. Bryan Brown (the familiar-faced eccentric Australian character actor whom you may recognize from Gorillas in the Mist, Cocktail, and Along Came Polly - not to be confused with Paul Hogan) plays Wrather, a "conveyancer" who helps Frisk Junior procure his Tokay for Dean Spanley.

Nugget: I started to fall asleep during the climactic scene at the morning preview screening in the Phoenix Picturehouse. I get the feeling I didn't quite get the full effect of whatever snap in the tail this film had. I was enjoying the film up to this point, but it was not gripping enough to force me out of my Sunday morning drowse. But it was worth it just for O'Toole's masterclass.

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