FILM REVIEW | MR TURNER
By Brett Hutton
Is it a coincidence that a lot of films that bore me to tears happen to be period pieces set in the times of powdered wigs and pantaloons, or is it just me? Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect from the film, but the trailer had me interested. Whenever a film receives rave reviews, I become sceptical as I board the hype train. Mind you, I felt the same way about The Imitation Game going in and I thought that movie was brilliant. Sadly, I can’t say the same for Mr Turner.
Mr Turner is a biopic on the 19th century English artist JMW Turner (played by Timothy Spall), who revolutionised landscape and marine paintings during his time. The film is beautiful on a surface level with Spall’s performance as Turner and Dick Pope’s lovely cinematography, while the costume and set designs are sublime. But for all its lush set designs and a powerhouse performance from its leading man, the film is an over-hyped disappointment.
And there lies the rub: the film has no story. It has no conflict, no character development, no semblance of plot, nothing. The film lacks depth and seems more interested in having its protagonist wander around, occasionally wave a brush about and have dull conversations that don’t matter. It was at the forty-minute mark that I realised nothing was happening. The fact that the film gleamed over a lot of details in tiny intervals without truly exploring them, leaving them in the dust and never brought up again, was incredibly frustrating.
I learnt virtually nothing about Turner as the subject and was given nothing to make me emotionally invested in him as a character. The film glosses over significant details about Turner’s life and art with barely connected vignettes. With nothing to hold onto or even a climax to look forward to, the film was an absolute chore to sit through. Mr Turner can’t even save itself as a character study as it doesn’t study its character. The cliff-note for this film can be summed up like this: JMW Turner was a man who lived, painted some pictures, got sick and died.
A good biopic can educate you on its subject while also being entertaining, but a bad one will simply burp out facts like a crude documentary. Mr Turner fails on both accounts. I can’t even recommend it to members of a JMW Turner Fan Club, who would undoubtedly be miffed at how anyone could make such a boring movie out of an amazing, remarkable artist, who had lived a particularly colourful life. You’d find more substance by just looking at one of Turner’s paintings and you’d learn much more about the man from reading his biography on Wikipedia.
Brett Hutton is a strange little man with a penchant for black clothing and metallic jewellery covered in skulls and images of the Occult. He watches and critiques films deep within his pressurised vault and survives on a diet of pizza, fried rice and ice coffee.