March 17, 2004
Local Hero (1983)
Local Hero: 1983, dir. Bill Forsyth. Seen on DVD (March 3).
Local Hero was on The List for 2003 because people have been telling me for years that I ought to watch some Bill Forsyth movies. Someone suggested I pay attention to the quirky characters in the movie because I write characters in the same way. Back in my screenwriting days, I was always better at writing vivid, interesting characters than I was at developing plot and story.
Local Hero seemed like a good place to begin with Mr. Forsyth's films. For one thing, Peter Riegert is in it, and I always enjoy watching Peter Riegert. If you've seen him as Sam the pickle man in Crossing Delancey, you understand.
Local Hero is a deliberately paced movie, which some people (like my boyfriend) find too slow to watch. Maybe even tedious. There's a lot of attention to detail. I liked the pacing but I like the pacing in A Room with a View so I am aware I'm not normal in this respect.
You know what this movie is? This is a love story. And it's a sad love story. This is a romantic movie. Only Mac (Riegert) doesn't fall in love with a woman, he falls in love with a small Scotland town (I can't remember its name, sorry). He doesn't want to see it hurt, he wants to stay there forever, and through a stroke of luck he helps save it ... but as a result, he has to go back to Houston and the big sterile corporate office. I felt so bad for him. He fell in love with a wonderful place and he ended up with Houston. (I interviewed for a job once in Odessa, Texas. It was to Austin what Houston is to the lovely town in Local Hero.)
So essentially, this is a lot like Stella Dallas, only with Peter Riegert instead of Barbara Stanwyck. Hee.
The characters in this movie are more beautifully drawn than I could manage. I particularly like Gordon (Denis Lawson), who changes personalities with every job he performs. He acts one way as the accountant, another way as the hotel owner, a third way as Stella's lover. Every character has quirks, but the filmmaker treats these quirks with respect more than ridicule.
Peter Riegert is perfectly adequate as Mac. I don't mean that as a slight, I mean that this isn't a particularly showy role, but then this isn't a particularly showy movie. Burt Lancaster is a pleasant surprise in this movie, not at all what I would have anticipated.
This is a movie that's full of small moments rather than big memorable scenes. Marina (Jenny Seagrove) rising out of the water again. Mac leaving his watch on the beach and the watch alarm beeping in a waterlogged way where no one can hear. Happer (Lancaster) opening the ceiling of his office to reveal a startling map of the night sky. Mac asking a group of men whose baby that is, and the uncomfortable silence that follows. Mac asking Gordon to trade places with him. And so forth.
Local Hero is a Nice Little Movie. Again, that's not meant to be demeaning. Everything in the movie works just as it should, although the Houston scenes don't feel as authentic or natural as the ones in Scotland. But then they shouldn't, really, that's part of the point. I'm looking forward to seeing some of Forsyth's other films.Posted by jette at March 17, 2004 12:31 PM