[18 January 2009]
Flashbacks of a Fool is exactly what its title announces: flashbacks of a middle-aged man (Daniel Craig) about his long-lost childhood in coastal England. Joe is a Hollywood actor and now a complete mess drowning in drugs, sex and money. When he receives a call from his mother announcing the death of his forgotten best friend, Joe dives into souvenirs of his sexual awakening in his homeland, far away from the degenerate LA where he is currently living.
Craig, officially known as the new James Bond, plays nothing more then the overused cliché of the actor destroyed by fame and money. Nothing more. Not in any way can one become attached to this self-depraved and egocentric character played by Craig with so much coldness and apathy. He spends the first ten minutes of the movie naked though, as if the director had understood that since Craig’s performance was not to be remembered; at least his nudity would give some people a reason to go see the movie. I had thought Craig had proven himself a good actor, but I can only say it’s unfortunate that with this performance, he seems lacking in versatility. (Let’s hope he’ll prove me wrong on some future projects.)
Nor does the actor portraying Joe as a teenager score any more points then Craig. Harry Eden is totally insignificant and unmemorable. He completely fades away in the surroundings of actors who show far more talent and sensitivity throughout the development of the film. Felicity Jones, playing the young Ruth, offers a great performance as well as Joe’s best friend, Boots, played by an incredibly corky yet adorable Max Deacon.
With this production, debutant writer-director Baillie Walsh clearly set his goals a little too high. Let’s blame it on his lack of experience but still, he presents a movie completely vacuous and uncaptivating. First of all, the turning points of the story are not at all appealing enough to hold the narrative structure together. The secret which the story evolves around doesn’t justify all of the attention it gets. If treated differently, the story itself could have had potential, but shown the way it was, it can only be seen as an inconsistent creation that inevitably falls flat.
The movie is constructed on two specific aspects of Joe’s life: his present life and his childhood. Well, even if both, the present and the flashbacks, represent one person’s life experience, it feels like they are two completely disparate chronicles. Craig doesn’t reflect Harry Eden (playing Joe as a teenager) as well as Eden doesn’t reflect Craig; it’s as if we are watching two parallel stories evolving next to each other, with no evident connection.
Walsh succeeded on one aspect of the movie: the aesthetic is flawless. Working on two completely different and yet similar settings, Walsh captured the stunning beauty of both sceneries without a faux pas. The first part of the movie takes place in Joe’s modern architectural mansion. Walsh plays with the grandeur and the emptiness of the mansion beautifully; depicting every line and shadow. Even if it’s always sunny in LA, Walsh still makes it feel cold and almost bitter. Yet, the second part takes place in the UK and it doesn’t feel as wintry as the scenery might inquire: it’s the awakening of Joe as a teenager and during some moments, warmth seems to envelop the coastal landscape.
Finally, the last thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack. It’s hard to go wrong with Bowie and Roxy. Walsh used the music wisely and it surely helps the movie. Since the story needs all the help it can get, the ambiance created by these two “gods” of music as described by the characters is greatly welcomed and appreciated.