Frank (John Simm) works in a funky electric-red library in Yorkshire England. Miranda (Christina Ricci) is the girl of his dreams who appears out of nowhere in front of the library one day, spinning his head around with her sexy smoking and her surly not talking. Mild mannered Frank is completely blown away for some reason by her (who can explain these things?) and falls into a mad love affair with his mystery American girl. One morning when he awakes she is gone and he follows her to London to find she isn’t who she appeared to be.
The plot is incidental and serves as an excuse to have the characters in the same space talking to each other. He’s a small town librarian. She’s a real estate con artist. He has a goofy kung-fu loving pal and a nervous Chinese landlady. She has a manipulative mentor and a millionaire pervert mark she’s working. That’s about as much as you’ll remember, and isn’t really relevant in any event.
Marc Munden’s first film, “Miranda” is fun, but fluffy. It offers nothing that will stay with you. The tone is uncertain, and the style has a weird 60’s feel, without making clear when it’s actually set. It’s more like the 60’s sampled and as warped as the digitized title animations. The film deploys an uneven amalgam of styles without ever investing in one of them. I could never figure out if it was a caper movie, a love story on its head, a tale of redemption, or just pure nonsense.
The movie does offer some compelling performances and some that are not so hot.
John Simm as the precisely loveable Frank is delightful and nails his performance.
He has that Monty Python John Cleese capacity to make you laugh out loud wondering what the hell he’s going to do just from the look on his face.
Sadly, Christina Ricci is still playing Wednesday Addams (or Deedee Truitt from “The Opposite of Sex”). She‘s pissed off, disaffected, and uncomfortable. Munden presents her as an irresistible sex bomb, but the fact is that she’s a little too fleshy, too pale, has bad skin, and is not all that sexy. It’s tough to feel Ricci as a vampy ingénue. She’s certainly cute, but first sight of her would not likely suck the air out of a room. Part of the problem is that the poor lighting simply doesn’t compliment the actors. The cinematography is dark and uninspired.
Julian Rhind-Tutt as Frank’s friend Rod steals every scene he’s in. Rod is a well-meaning blue collar Yorkshire bonehead you have to shake your head at (but love anyway) and is the most genuine character in the film. In a moment of quirky charm the rest of the movie lacks, Rod gives Frank advice about life while they sit on the roof of his flat in old beauty parlor hair-dryer chairs.
John Hurt as Miranda’s con-man mentor radiates rumpled class effortlessly, but is grossly underused here.
Kyle Machlachlan, on the other hand, is cast in the role he was born to play as the un-contained millionaire degenerate Nailor. He always did seem a little creepily over-happy as Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet and Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks, projecting a forced sense of sinister friendliness. In the character of Nailor we see the fermented middle-aged version of it: he is just oozing with that nut ball quality. Machlachlan sells it, big time.
The story of Frank and Miranda would have been better served if it were a little less sweet and little more sexually bold. In the new Australian heist caper “The Hard Word” Rachel Griffith’s character visits her incarcerated husband. She puts her hand under her skirt and then makes a smiley face with a sticky finger on the glass that separates them. Guy Pearce’s character is left with no doubt that she’s happy to see him. That’s a refreshing and deeply sexy earthiness that’s missing from “Miranda” where the most daring revelation is that John Simm has a narrow hairy a*s.
Ricci seems oddly outnumbered as the lone little girl inhabiting this universe overpopulated with clueless, perverse, reprobate men. She seems sad even when she’s smiling. In one tearful, truly dark scene, it did not feel like she was acting. The sadness pouring from her was as genuine and primal as the rest of her on-screen emotions were contrived and strained. For much of the film she has a look on her face like she needs a shower to wash off the psychic ick.
“Miranda” is a ransom note of a film, with scenes, music, characters and tone cut and pasted into a mad patchwork. Parts of it work, parts don’t. There is laughter, tears, love, sex, intrigue, cold nullification, and warm acceptance, and none of it in any particular order or for any particular reason.
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