Brassed Off/Little Voice

Both films directed by Mark Herman

I was going to do separate articles on the two films, but since they share the same writer/director, I've put them both together.  There's no connection (other than a few shared themes), but they are both excellent movies.

Brassed OffBrassed Off (1996)IMDB Entry

Starring Pete Postlethwaite, Tara Fitzgerald, Ewan McGregor

Brassed Off bears some similarity to another British film that is far from obscure:  The Full Monty.  In both, people are struggling against unemployment and are looking for wash to cope.  The Full Monty (released a year later) has nudity as a selling point, which, of course, made it a big hit.  Pete Postletwaite

Pete Postlethwaite was for a time, one of the busiest actors in films.  In the 90s, he seemed to be showing up everywhere.  You probably don't remember his name, but you certainly remember him in his most famous role, Mr. Kobyashi in The Usual Suspects.  He also appeared in Romeo + Juliet, The Last of the Mohicans, Amistad, Alien3, and Dragonheart, with memorable supporting parts.  He was certainly not leading man material, but always putting in a memorable performance.

Brassed Off is about music (so is Little Voice) and how important it can be in the life of a community.

The radiant Tara Fitzgerald (see Hear My Song) is an efficiency expert (and flugelhorn player) named Gloria, who comes to the mining town of Grimley to see if their colliery (a type of coal mine) can be made viable into the 21st centure.  Postlethwaite plays Danny, the leader of the Grimley Colliery Band, a group of brass-playing miners that has been a fixture in the town for over a century.

Gloria joins the band, the first woman ever, falls in love with Ewan McGregor (who did several very good small British films before being picked to be young Obi-Wan), and comes to take on the mission of trying to save the mine, the band, and the village.  Danny, whose life is the band, makes it his mission to compete in the national championships.

The main difference between this and The Full Monty is one of tone.  Monty is playful about its subject (like Andy Hardy, "Let's all get together and put on a show!" is the solution to the issues).  Brassed Off is . . . well, brassed off -- a British phrase meaning angry as hell.  The final scene is giving the finger to the greed that may have killed the band, not just making the best of things.

Little VoiceLittle Voice (1998)IMDB Entry

Starring Jane Horrocks, Ewan McGregor, Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, and Brenda Blethyn.

Like Brassed Off, Little Voice is about the redemptive power of music. But Jane Horrocks's LV has her own, much more personal, reasons for hers.

Horrocks is best known in the US for the role of "Bubbles" and "Katy Grin" in Absolutely Fabulous.  She was also great as the voice of Babs in Chicken Run.  But Little Voice shows a truly astounding talent.  If the movie musical were in full swing (instead of limping along), she would have been a major star.

Horrocks plays LV -- also know as Little Voice -- a young woman who has the talent to imitate -- no, become -- some of the great singers of the past:  Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and others. (Horrocks actually does all her own singing -- this was originally a stage play.)  But LV is terminally shy and has no interest in performing on stage.

Enter Michael Caine as Ray Say, a sleezy agent down on his luck.  He hears LV and knows this his ticket back to the big time.  But LV doesn't want to perform.

The cast is stellar.  Jim Broadbent is there, and I'm beginning to think he has never appeared in a bad film.  Broadbent was (and still is) one of the busiest actors in films.  Wait a minute . . . Yes, much of what I said about Pete Postlethwaite also applies to Broadbent.  Take a look at his credits, which include The Crying Game, Widow's Peak, Bullets Over Broadway, Richard III, Topsy Turvy, Bridget Jones's Diary, Iris, Gangs of New York, Moulin Rouge, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Here, he plays Mr. Boo, who runs the night club where LV is going to make her debut.

Ewan McGregor once again shows the charm that had made him a major star as LV's love interest, and Brenda Blethyn plays her mother. The film is charming and a lot of fun, and Horrock's performance -- both as acting and as a singer -- make it well worth seeing.

7/2/06

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