Acts of Godfrey, 2012.
Written and Directed by Johnny Daukes.
Starring Simon Callow, Iain Robertson, Harry Enfield, Doom Mackichan and Ian Burfield.
God (Simon Callow) presents us a story (in verse), mainly following Victor (Iain Robertson) at a business seminar but bringing in others and slowly revealing how every single one of them is connected.
A film that takes existentialism as one of its themes is probably suited to the image of a man standing naked outside a classy hotel, rain pouring down on him. But I’ll come back to that later. Johnny Daukes, director, writer, even on the soundtrack, has crafted a decent film out of an idea that sounds like it could be up its own backside.
And because it’s the biggest point about a film that’s in verse, the huge, neon-signed, man bellowing through a megaphone question is: Can the writing be good without being a show-off gimmick? The answer is sort of, maybe, but with drawbacks.
It took a scene or two for me to get used to the rhyming and even when I was, I sometimes found myself sitting there trying to figure out what was going to be the next line. Sometimes this was easy (oh, I wonder if I can find a rhyme for the word ‘bet?’), other times frustrating purely because I thought it didn’t count as a rhyme.
So the rhyming verse element of the film, while sometimes fun, was probably not worth it in the end. If your audience is going to sit there either actively guessing or disagreeing with the script, it’s probably not going to be a good day. I don’t care if it is technically a rhyme, if your quasi-gimmick doesn’t seem to stick to its rules in the eyes (or ears) of the audience, your film isn’t gonna do very well.
One more question while I’m here. Was the fact the entire script was in verse a choice to make the film experimental, or traditional? Because it seems more like it’s an old fashioned way of storytelling masquerading as experimental. Just something that bugged me.
Another part of the script that didn’t work was… well, how can I put this..? ‘What happened in the script’ is probably the best I can come up with. Victor (Iain Robertson) is standing outside the hotel, naked, and being rained on. It’s an intriguing image to begin your film with (‘this doesn’t normally happen unless it’s a Travelodge’), but when it’s revealed why it just doesn’t make sense. And yes, it made sense that some characters were at the same seminar because one was stalking the other. But when two characters are linked just for the sake of justifying the ‘everyone’s connected’ ‘theme’, it cheapens everything and makes it into a soap opera.
Annoying sarcastic ‘’ marks are so prevalent in the previous paragraph because the themes presented at the beginning of the film are built upon so little that they may as well have started the script again from scratch (in concerns to themes).
And some of the big reveals made me question whether they were big reveals at all. They certainly looked like big reveals. They were treated like big reveals. But you can see them coming from a mile off. ‘Hmm, who could be trying to call Victor whilst he’s away for a business seminar? Could it be a certain member of his family? Nah, he’s probably just too wrapped up in existential funk to understand how Facebook works, that must be it.’
There are small amounts of media satire found throughout as well, but again they’re built upon so little there’s just no point in them being there. The main character will look up, see an absurd news story, make a comment and then get back to the story. So basically, the script is full of under-developed themes, bad reveals and dialogue that distances the audience from what they’re watching. But at least it looks nice. Most of the time.
Production values are on and off. For the most part, the film looks and sounds very nice, but there were times I couldn’t see what was going on. Is my TV on the fritz? Am I watching Alien vs. Predator again? Okay, it wasn’t that bad (what is?) but I don’t like my films turning into radio dramas. On the opposite end of the scale, however, the freeze frames as God (Simon Callow) wonders while he wanders are handled very well.
And the fact God was in it, according to the rules, means you can have him speak to the audience. This was used to full effect when the laws of the sex scene were explained, using a voiceover with onscreen demonstrations. This made the scene not just another sex scene and actually made me laugh.
The mention of the above themes and the intrigue of rhyming couplets was probably what led some fine British actors to this film. Everyone plays their parts well (as expected) in what can only be described as stock characters. Everyone’s supposed to have a back story, but we’re still gonna keep the character’s themselves two-dimensional.
Harry Enfield in particular does well to keep his character from being a completely loathsome git, instead transforming him into A Bad Man. The actors aren’t really given enough to work with to make their characters real (so little is given to them, in fact, that I feel I may be missing a point somewhere). And Simon Callow, one of those actors who are blessed with a deeper-than-normal, wise-sounding voice, was a good choice for God. Sounds a lot like Dominic West, actually.
In the end, the script is a good idea in principal but keeps the audience distanced from what happens, thus creating a sense of just not caring. The actors are well chosen for their archetypes (sorry, roles) and the film looks decent enough to get by. If I were clever I’d write some rhymes about this movie, which would make my review so groovy. But in the end if these rhymes only served to disjoint, I’d only end up asking ‘what’s the point’?
See, I’m very witty. Just like this film is not so good.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★