Film review: ‘Arthur Newman’

Emily Blunt and Colin Firth play Americans, with accents to boot, in "Arthur Newman." Credit: Cinedigm
Emily Blunt and Colin Firth play Americans, with accents to boot, in “Arthur Newman.”
Credit: Cinedigm

‘Arthur Newman’
Director: Dante Ariola
Stars: Colin Firth, Emily Blunt
Rating: R
1 Globe (out of 5)

Jean-Luc Godard once said all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun. Likewise, it can’t be hard to make something watchable with only a decent premise and two great actors. In “Arthur Newman,” Colin Firth plays Avery, a depressed middle aged divorcee who fakes his death to become a golf pro. Not long after hitting the road with his new, titular identity, he happens upon “Mike” (Emily Blunt), a self-destructive woman who likes to break into strangers’ houses and pretend to be them.

They bond, as expected. More importantly, they are played by Colin Firth and Emily Blunt, two of England’s finest and most likable screen presences. Both are fine thespians, but they also have to do very little to charge up the screen. Their charm is innate, and they theoretically complement each other well. Firth is a master at reserved deadpan, who often makes a joke out of oozing classically English stiffness. Blunt is an uncommonly alert actress who could at all times do anything, including spinning line readings into wonderfully unpredictable sing-song sounds. They are a yin and a yang, so nicely complementary that it’s surreal this is the first screen they’ve shared.

One would have to consciously work very hard to make a worthless film from this pairing. And that seems to be what first-time director Dante Ariola and screenwriter Becky Johnston (“The Prince of Tides”) set out to do. Johnston’s script has a promising set-up then fails to take her characters in many interesting directions. Avery/Arthur and Mike (spoiler: not her real name) have brief fun with kinky sex on old people’s beds, but most of the film is dedicated to self-pity and self-loathing. Among the items Avery has abandoned are a son and a girlfriend (Anne Heche), who wind up hanging out and talking about the man they don’t realize has simply abandoned them.

This is all building to a predictable, killjoy finale, albeit a horribly unrealized one that cuts out before anyone has the chance to work out the characters’ core problems. Director Ariola, meanwhile, doubles down on the melancholy, shooting everything in dim, miserable lighting and ladling on a generically sad score that places even the rare upbeat, carefree moments in a downbeat fog. That the film has tasked two of the most euphonious Brits with speaking in bland, neutral American accents is barely a flaw amidst so much miscalculation. To borrow a line from William Hurt in “A History of Violence”: when you have Firth and Blunt, how do you f— that up?


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

National

New Hampshire moves to decriminalize adultery

For the first time in hundreds of years, it's about to be legal to cheat on your spouse in New Hampshire.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Music

Both feet on the ground with Aimee Mann…

What began with a cool double-bill of Ted Leo opening for Aimee Mann morphed into a full-fledged collaborative project that they're calling The Both. “There…

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Sports

2014 Boston Marathon preview: Elite American, International runners…

2014 Boston Marathon: Elite American, International runners to watch

NBA

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams…

2014 NBA Finals odds: Ranking which playoff teams have the best shot at a championship. The Thunder, Clippers, Heat and Rockets lead the way.

NFL

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

2014 Patriots, full NFL schedule release date announced

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.