Movie Reviews: Victor Frankenstein, Christmas With the Coopers, 11 Minutes

Frankenstein’s monster is a Hollywood horror icon, but Paul McGuigan’s Victor Frankenstein (12A) attempts to give Mary Shelley’s tale a fresh spin. 

Movie Reviews: Victor Frankenstein, Christmas With the Coopers, 11 Minutes

Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) is a circus hunchback rescued from a life of ridicule by Frankenstein (James McEvoy), who believes that Igor – a brilliant amateur student of human anatomy – can help him animate the dead.

We see Frankenstein’s world through Igor’s eyes, and while McGuigan retains many of the familiar Gothic tropes – the gloomy laboratory, the descent into madness of a man who attempts to thwart the will of God – the story belongs in equal part to Igor, as he falls in love with Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay) and struggles to keep his megalomaniacal benefactor on an even keel.

Meanwhile, the puritanical Inspector Turpin (Andrew Scott) is hot on the trail of Frankenstein and Igor, suspecting them of the foulest of deeds.

It’s an odd concoction in many ways, and even allowing for the subject matter, the tone is deliberately (but delightfully) overwrought right from the start.

Radcliffe wanders through the movie with his eyes saucer-wide with naïve sincerity, while McEvoy plays Frankenstein as a demented evil genius, grinning and gurning throughout like some kind of diabolical Cheshire cat.

It’s less of a horror than it is a fast-paced steampunk adventure romp, with the glowering Andrew Scott something of a relief when he pops up as the God-fearing policeman prophesying damnation, and if you’re willing to play along with the grotesque exaggeration of mood and tone, it’s an enjoyable slice of metaphysical kitsch.

Christmas with the Coopers (12A) finds four generations of the extended Cooper family coming together on Christmas Eve, gathering at the home of Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman).

All of them are dreading this year’s festivities: Charlotte and Sam, who are about to divorce, are pretending all is well for the sake of their adult kids, while daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is desperately trying to pick up war-bound soldier Joe (Jake Lacy), so that she won’t have to pretend – yet again – that she’s single again this Christmas.

Meanwhile, Emma (Marisa Tomei), Hank (Ed Helms), Bucky (Alan Arkin) and Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) have their own reasons for feeling rather less than festive. It’s a familiar conceit, but Steven Rogers’ script is clever in the way it plays with the mystique of Christmas, acknowledging its seductive power while constantly undermining the cosy conventions that combine to create the mythology.

With a large cast and a number of diverse stories to accommodate, director Jessie Nelson does a neat job of keeping all his plates in the air, helped in large part by the smart and deliciously cynical dialogue (the Arkin/Seyfried combination is surprisingly effective, although Wilde and Lacy steal the show as the painfully self-aware romantic couple).

This being a Christmas movie, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a schmaltzy redemptive finale, which undoes much of the good work that has gone before.

Set in Warsaw, Polish-Irish production 11 Minutes (15A) is an intriguing cinematic experiment in which a host of characters experience the same 11 minutes on a particular afternoon from a dizzying range of perspectives.

Richard Dormer plays sleazy film producer Richard Martin, who is attempting to seduce aspiring movie star Anna (Paulina Chapko) in his hotel room while Anna’s jealous husband (Wojciech Mecwaldowski) lurks in the corridor outside.

The trio are entirely unaware of the number of different scenarios orbiting their own experience (a former professor, recently released from prison, sells hotdogs to nuns; an ambulance crew battles with a violent man as they struggle to gain access to a pregnant woman), the playing out of which leads inexorably to disaster and tragedy.

Written and directed by Jerzy Skolimowski, 11 Minutes is frequently bewildering, as characters’ stories are inter-cut with apparently irrelevant storylines with little or no effort made to introduce or connect the various narratives.

That, it would appear, seems to be the whole point: 11 Minutes is a film about random chaos, and the extent to which our lives are governed not only by forces beyond our control, but forces which intrude upon our lives for no good reason and without any discernible motive.

It’s a concept that flies in the face of most storytelling, in which art attempts to impose an artificial order on the universe’s essential meaninglessness, and Skolimowski is to be applauded for a rather daring departure from the conventions of filmmaking.

If you prefer your storytelling linear and consequential, however, 11 Minutes may not be the one for you.

Victor Frankenstein ***

Christmas With the Coopers ***

11 Minutes ***

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