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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


The Short Happy Life of Joe Orton left us three semi-classic farces (ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE; WHAT THE BUTLER SAW; LOOT) which may have lost their power to shock, but retain the larky spirit that bursts out of their boulevard farce trappings. But Orton's slim output is permanently skewed by the undeserved celebrity infamy of a violent death at the hands of his longtime roommate & sometime lover Kenneth Halliwell, a mentally unstable would-be novelist who suicided after the act. While you really can’t miss the dramatic possibilities, and neither Alan Bennett’s mordantly funny script nor Stephen Frears typically fluent helming put a foot wrong, the personal life inherently misrepresents, even undermines, the nature of Orton’s blazing talent, turning his life into a cautionary tale. So, even though Gary Oldman & Alfred Molina are superb as Orton & Halliwell, respectively, only Vanessa Redgrave, as Orton’s famously eccentric literary agent Peggy Ramsay, strikes just the right tone of impudent gall & humor. What a pleasure to see her being fast, loose & funny! Check out Orton’s audition sequence at RADA to see what’s missing from the rest of this film.

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