Saturday, 9 June 2012

Toast (2010)

How do you beat the best lemon meringue pie ever baked in the world?

Ken Stott looks a bit like the
old guy from Up (2009), doesn't he?
At a glance:
Offbeat British telemovie set in the 60s, first aired on BBC One in December 2010. The narrator is Nigel Slater, an openly gay cook, food writer and TV personality whom New York Times' Stephen Holden calls "a Billy Elliot of the culinary arts". Not coincidentally, the screenplay is written by the same guy who did Billy Elliot (2000). Anyway, the proceedings are based on the memoirs first serialised in The Observer and then formin his 2004 autobiography Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger. We follow Nigel (Nottinghamshire upstart Oscar Kennedy as the younger version and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory's Freddie Highmore as the older one) as he lives out his early, pathetic and eventless Wolverhampton existence with his grumpy dad (Ken Stott) and acutely asthmatic mum (Victoria Hamilton) whose idea of cookin is boilin tinned foods in a pot. Title is a reference to the only thing the mum can do without burnin down the house.
Bad news on the doorstep:
I thought gays and pies never mix.
Strong first 15 minutes, everythin meandered thereafter. Probably that's why it's a TV movie. Pronounced lack of energy to the picture, nowhere as compellin as Billy Elliot and certainly well within the weekend viewin that TV series director S.J. Clarkson is comfortable with.

In the production notes, the adaptation is explained: For Hall it was a daunting task to convert Slater’s memoir to the screen. The book had been constructed as a large collection of beautifully crafted vignettes. These were moments that Slater recalled with stunning detail, but which were ultimately episodic, collated into a large canvas upon which the audience can see the entire scenery of Slater’s young life etched out. “It was clear to me that there was a proper narrative there underneath, but the way Nigel wrote it dusted the surface,” says Hall. “So it took a long time to piece together, like a jigsaw puzzle, all the little bits that he’d dropped from the book to make a clearer screenplay.” Shouldda taken a longer time, methinks. Really wanted to enjoy this but it came across grossly uneven and self-important to me.
Helena Bonham Carter
makes her presence felt in any movie.
You do like them prickly, don't you, son?
Perennial wonderment:
How Helena Bonham Carter can inject some pizazz into any role and movie, as she does here. Her solid performance as the brash but redoubtable house cleaner Mrs Potter is one of the few high notes of the movie.
Reminds me of:
It really oughtta been Chocolat (2000) in the West Midlands but no such luck.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Consistently but intentionally underhit throughout, this was probably magically intimate on paperback but it's hard to care for its big screen adaptation. Difficult to relate to Nigel here beyond token sentimentality. In fact, it made it all looked a bit too ordinary. Loved the Dusty Springfield score though, so we'll be kinder.
Bonus material:
"Toast may have discarded some of the darker episodes from Slater's adolescence but it stayed doggedly loyal to the spirit of the book:
think Cinema Paradiso, but with pork pies instead of movies."
- This Is Leicestershire