Thursday, March 23, 2023

'Lost King' tries to rule, but even Flo Pugh can't carry 'Good Person'

It happens every year, and still remains quite incredible to me: Many of the movies I see each September at the annual Toronto International Film Festival keep debuting what seems like forever on local screens.

Just last week, in fact, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin brought "Moving On" to theaters in northeast Ohio (and everywhere else, too). Now the brilliantly spot-on Sally Hawkins co-stars with co-writer Steve Coogan in a rather British kind of serious comedy, which -- go figure -- also made its world premiere at TIFF47 and, on Friday, finally begins a theatrical run for U.S. audiences.

"The Lost King" tells some real-life tales of historian Philippa Langley (Hawkins), as she attempts to lead a country-wide search for the remains of English King Richard III, whom she believed was royally smeared by Shakespeare, among many others.

Coogan plays Langley's mostly supportive (if separated) husband, even when Philippa claims to see and converse with the centuries-dead King himself. Of course, we see the handsome devil (Harry Lloyd) as well and, as directed by the ever-steady Stephen Frears ("Dangerous Liaisons," "The Queen," to name only a few), those scenes become some of the film's most charming moments.

Please just don't expect screenwriters Jeff Pope and Coogan to engage you the same way they might have in their Oscar-nominated work on Frears' "Philomena," and you'll probably walk out of the theater more entertained than exhilarated.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: some strong language and brief suggestive references; 1:48; $ $ $ out of $5

Sorry to say I can't claim the same sentiments for "A Good Person," a film that neither world-class actors Florence Pugh nor Morgan Freeman can save.

It's a Debbie Downer of a movie, with Pugh, who remains marvelous in all she does, playing an opioid addict, and Freeman, as a recovering alcoholic himself, portraying the solemn ex-cop that almost became her father-in-law.

The lengthy whys and wherefores, offered up in another behind-the-camera effort from comic actor-turned director and writer Zach Braff, should be seen and likely judged by others who have not watched dozens of similar recovery dramas previously. 

I must have looked at my watch at least that many times in the last half-hour alone.

Rated "R" by MPAA: drug abuse, language throughout and some sexual references; 2:09; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

(Also opening Friday exclusively in theaters: the long-awaited John Wick: Chapter 4. Meanwhile, and speaking of cinematic showcases such as TIFF, our own 47th annual Cleveland International  Film Festival, or CIFF, is boasting a full array of product -- 121 features and 199 more shorts -- now through April 1. And wouldn't you know, CIFF's closing night film will be another TIFF46 world premiere, the Canadian comedy "I Like Movies." Return here next week for a review.)

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