Quick question for UK-readers of this blog who might be more culturally-minded than I am… any idea how you find out about who’s doing what in the theatre? Obviously I can find the ‘what’s on’ sections on theatre’s individual websites, and there are mountains of sites advertising tickets for the perpetual musicals, but where do I find out what Felicity Kendal and Penelope Wilton and Jennifer Ehle are up to? How does one know? Nothing like imdb.com for theatre, is there?
And now I’m going to wander into filmic territory, which is something of an unusual move for this book-orientated blog. I did wander through all my literary films back in the early days of this blog, but the one I wanted to mention tonight doesn’t even come under that category – except that I came to it by route of Pride and Prejudice. More particularly, the sublime Jennifer Ehle and her unmatchable portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet – since that day I have been keeping my eye out for Jennifer Ehle’s other roles. There haven’t been many. And when they exist, she tends to get shunted to a minor role (for example, the upcoming film Pride and Glory). BUT there is a gem, one which gives Jennifer Ehle a lead role, and which is beautiful and thoughtful and delicately touching. And that film is Alpha Male.
Yes, I know. It sounds like it’s about stock-car racing, but I promise it’s not. Jennifer Ehle plays Alice, mother of Jack and Elyssa, and newly widowed. The film plays out between her first marriage and her second relationship, several years later as Jack turns 21, moving back and forth between these time periods (you do have to rather rely on Ehle’s hairstyle to work out which time period you’re watching, as Danny Huston and Patrick Valli look incredibly similar). Neither child reacts well to the changes – Elyssa gently sinking into a hallucinatory illness and Jack estranging himself from the family he blames – but it is Ehle’s sophisticated, reserved, bereaved and slightly helpless Alice who stands out. Jennifer Ehle could act a three act play with just her eyes, which are endlessly expressive, and Alpha Male gives her the scope to do more or less that – though apparently there was an even better director’s cut. The DVD I have was supposedly altered in an attempt to make it ‘more commercial’ – which I imagine failed. Not much plot happens here, it is rather about beautiful cinemtography, refined, sensitive performances and an undefinable atmospheric quality. Only one other person I know has seen this film, and she found it quite dull (be warned, I might be alone!) – it’s not packed with action, but it is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. And anything with Jennifer Ehle at the helm can’t be bad, now, can it?