As someone who has studied art history, I was intrigue and looking forward to seeing Mr Turner. A film which focuses on the life of the greatly revered eccentric British painter, J.M.W Turner. Instead of making a story spanning his entire life, the film makers chose to depict his last 25 years of living.
There are two things that will immediately become apparent to viewers; first are the constant use of absolutely mesmerising wide shot landscapes. The beginning scene of the sunset overlooking a country side is stunning. Throughout the entire movie, director Mike Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope, capture landscapes that Turner himself would have loved and painted.
Secondly, Timothy Spall deserves all the praise and awards for his portrayal of J.M.W Turner. He brings such an unpleasant selfish hog like character to life, grunting, snorting, and spitting – with such brilliance, that you can’t help but admire his skills as an actor. Dorothy Atkinson, is just as exceptional at playing Turner’s diseased housekeeper. She brings the heart and the heartache to the story. Her character and her relationship with Turner should have been delved into more.
Unfortunately, those are the only positive things I can write about this film. While there are some occasional dry humour – one involving a comment about a gargoyle and another scene about a camera – sad to say, this “biopic” fails miserably. Director Mike Leigh recently stated that he took this film on without a proper script, and you can tell. The script is awful, not only does it not tell the viewer much, but with what little information it does provide, it is often misleading.
It has been noted that Leigh did not want to make a “conventional” biopic about how J.M.W Turner painted or what inspired him, rather he wanted to focus on what Turner was like away from his canvas. However, the bits and pieces of his life that are played out are nothing much of interest, and certainly not explored in depth. It’s not until an hour in that we get to see some sort of emotion from Turner after a tragic event, that is a moment where the writer and director could have used to their advantage to explore more of his frame of mind, instead the scene lasts for a few minutes before moving on to another dull moment. His character is never allowed to evolve by the film makers.
This story has been “in the works” for 15 years, so it is truly perplexing that they couldn’t have come up with an astounding or even remotely good script during that period. What makes it worse, is the fact that Mr Turner runs for 150 minutes. Two and a half hours of disgusting hygiene, grunting, scratching, empty script and majority of viewers will be regretting their choice of film. It is truly lacklustre. Such a biopic of a great artist should be leaving audiences inspired and wanting to see his work. Instead, majority will be left scratching themselves and struggling not to fall asleep.
There are fans of J.M.W Turner and more of the “mature audience” who will find this movie engaging and for them, I rate it 3 stars.
Mr Turner is out in cinemas now.