Film Review: Birthday Girl, Minority Report

The Golden Couple

(originally published in Inform Magazine, July 2002)

Birthday Girl is British and stars a big Hollywood star. Start panicking now, as all those memories of Harrison Ford, John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone etc. etc. crossing the pond assault you like a fluke Brazilian goal.
Nicole Kidman is the star in this instance. She plays a very tall Russian girl with a penchant for chain smoking and goth make-up. She’s mail ordered by lonely British guy Ben Chaplin. Chaplin is a nerdy banker living in St. Albans with a neat haircut. “I think communication is key,” he explains to his video dating camera, the poor romantic fool. Kidman may be gorgeous and very tall, but alas she can only speak one word of English. “Are you a giraffe?” he asks, getting a crick in the back of his neck. “Yes,” she answers from somewhere near the ceiling. But she can give a mean hand job, which melts Chaplin’s disappointment somewhat.
It must be love, because she doesn’t even mind his dodgy pornography collection or, worst of all, his model aeroplanes. So, in-between bondage fun with knitting needles played to the usual really rubbish soundtrack music that every film is required to have these days, it looks like it might just work out. Then Kidman’s burly Russian ‘friends’ turn up. “She’s my little cousin, except she’s not my little cousin,” explains one helpfully. Well, she’s not exactly little.
When one threatens to burn poor lanky Nicole with a kettle, Chaplin has to take a visit to his bank to make an unauthorised deposit. Oh dear, it’s all a scam. It was inevitable that all this would get a bit silly and unbelievable, but a nice change is that all this is followed through, and the impact on the characters is examined in a believable way. When we get the happy ending, it’s not quite what we expected yet still pleasing.
Birthday Girl is a decent little Brit film is a world where most films made here are bloody awful. Sure, there’s the inevitable gorgeous views of the English countryside – is this a requirement of getting Lottery money or something? – and there’s also the fun of spotting all the League of Gentlemen and Armstrong & Miller (the former billed as “Xander Armstrong” – has he been watching too much Buffy?).
In Birthday Girl, Nicole Kidman towers over poor Ben Chaplin, something that teeny Tom Cruise won’t have to put with ever again. In Minority Report, everybody is of a decent size, and besides, the viewer’s too busy watching the special effects. Minority Report must be the only summer blockbuster that isn’t a sequel or based on a comic or video game. As such it’s a bit risky, even with Steven Spielberg at the helm.
Tom Cruise is a policeman and drug addict – this is dark stuff folks – who’s part of a crack (ho-ho) team who stop murders before they happen. You heard right; but since this is based on a story by Philip K. Dick it shouldn’t be too big a shock. Cruise is still getting over the disappearance of his son when the next guy who’s apparently going to kill someone is himself. Shocker!
So he does what any decent guy would do; goes on the lam and kidnaps the ‘pre-cog’ who made the prediction, the resolutely short Samantha Morton. As it turns out, if you’re going on the run, having someone who knows the future can prove pretty useful. She even knows when to grab an umbrella in case of inclement weather.
In the end, Minority Report doesn’t quite make sense and contains one twist too many, but it definitely has its moments. All those complaining that there’s too much product placement should check out the billboards of the future, which are at least suitably annoying. And there’s some pretty disturbing and clever moments, especially when Cruise gets his eyes changed (honestly). And, like Birthday Girl, it’s fun to spot the supporting characters, seemingly taken from the repertory of the Coen Brothers.
Minority Report is definitely worth your time, if only because it’s good to see a film that is both a summer blockbuster and isn’t playing it safe.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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