MR MORGAN'S LAST LOVE
When retired and just-widowed Paris-based American philosophy professor Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) meets young Parisian dance teacher, Pauline (Clémence Poésy), his interest in life is rekindled.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although problematic and uneven, Mr Morgan's Last Love has a bitter sweet quality that will appeal to an older demographic whose empathy with the themes will overcome the glitches. Besides, Michael Caine is still a favourite, even when he tries to sound like an American in Paris.
It is mainly the first half of the film that suffers from a lack of dramatic tension or interest, possibly a weakness in the adaptation (I haven't read the novel). Grey haired Matthew Morgan catches the eye of a young blonde on a Paris bus, an exchange not filled with sexual frisson of course, but with some sort connection we discover later. When the bus lurches and Matthew plunges into other passengers, they curse him but she rescues him - and so a connection is established.
Clémence Poésy is terrific as Pauline, the young cha cha teacher who feels an affinity with Matthew as he reminds her of her late father. She, in turn, reminds him of his beloved and much missed late wife. The friendship has a slightly forced feel to it as portrayed on film, but it offers us the only emotional throughline - other than grief. Hans Zimmer's music is rather bland and mournful, perhaps too focused on that grief ....
The film gets more complex and engaging when Matthew's son Miles (Justin Kirk) arrives from America, as does his daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson). They come rushing over to be by his bedside following a clumsy suicide attempt ... and family splinters emerge, not only over his fathership but about their own relationships. Anderson is sparky and effective as the down to earth Karen, and Kirk carries the rest of the film's dramatic agenda well.
The resolution of the relationships is partially successful, but Poésy's Pauline remains the film's haunting character, a figure shadowed by her loneliness.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's the labouring nature and tone of the story that eventually wore me down in this tale about grief, love and loss, despite a wonderful cast headed by Michael Caine. Glorious Paris in autumn looks wonderful too through Michael Bertl's lens, but it is not enough to counter the heavy handed nature of Sandra Nettelbeck's adaptation of Françoise Dorner's book La Douceur Assassine. Even Hans Zimmer's music that begins with such fluidity becomes so morbid that it puts a lid on any possibility of hope that the film offers.
While Nettelbeck masterfully managed the tone of Mostly Martha in 2002 which also dealt with some delicate issues about relationships, the theme of death seems to override everything here despite the juxtaposition of beauty and misery.
Sporting a convincing American accent, Caine plays a grieving widower with too much time on his hands, while Clémence Poésy lights up the screen as Pauline, the cha-cha dancer who wears her heart on her sleeve and is good at fixing things. Poésy has a luminous quality - reminiscent of Amy Adams; she is the heart of the film. They meet on the bus and there's an immediate, easy rapport between them which is more intuitive than logical. He tells her she is the only thing that he has not figured out and we can see how they connect - she is searching for her lost father and he is looking for the light that has been missing since his wife's deathThe ghost of his wife (Jane Alexander) appears intermittently through the film although it is Caine as Matthew who mooches about ghost-like most of the time. The development of Matthew and Pauline's relationship evolves nicely although it is a pity that we do not learn a little more about Pauline's background.
Justin Kirk is a standout as Caine's son Miles and the scenes between them bristle with energy. It is in these scenes that the film suddenly comes to life. The dynamic is also good between Miles and Pauline and the scene in the hospital when they meet for the first time conveys so much with few words. Gillian Anderson makes the most of her screen time as the materialistic, shop-a-holic daughter whose concern for possessions outweigh any elements of emotional warmth.
The film's themes have parallels with Michael Haneke's Oscar winner Amour and Roger Michell's Venus but is not as successful as either.
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MR MORGAN'S LAST LOVE (M)
CAST: Michael Caine, Clémence Poésy, Michelle Goddet, Jane Alexander, Gillian Anderson, Justin Kirk
PRODUCER: Astrid Kahmke, Frank Kaminski, Philipp Kreuzer, Ulrish Stiehm
DIRECTOR: Sandra Nettelbeck
SCRIPT: Sandra Nettelbeck, (novel by Françoise Dorner)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael Bertl
EDITOR: Christoph Strothjohann
MUSIC: Hans Zimmer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stanislas Reydellet
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 6, 2014