Leigh’s Lackeys

Rating: NNNDad has a disastrous haircut,Mom runs things in the face of his dreamy incompetence, and the kids are foul-mouthed.


Rating: NNN


Dad has a disastrous haircut,Mom runs things in the face of his dreamy incompetence, and the kids are foul-mouthed urchins — oh, my. The Osbournes is the MTV version of a Mike Leigh family drama, a Mike Leigh family with money and weird hipster cachet.Leigh, like his compatriot Ken Loach, isn’t actually interested in people with money.

He likes to put his characters in the direst domestic circumstances imaginable, then let them twist for two hours.

The most common phrase in Leigh’s latest film, All Or Nothing, is “Fuck off,” usually addressed in dead earnest by a grown child to a parent or putative loved one. Hmm, well, that makes them sound even more like the Osbournes, doesn’t it?

After the magnificent folly of Topsy-Turvy, Leigh returns to the familiar terrain of the dysfunctional working-class family, cast with familiar faces from his stock company: Lesley Manville from Topsy-Turvy, Secrets And Lies and High Hopes Ruth Sheen from High Hopes and Timothy Spall from five Leigh films, most memorably as the brother in Secrets And Lies.

The story takes a while to get going and deals with a group of characters who, were they to rationally weigh their options, would blow their brains out.

Leigh hasn’t quite reached Loach’s degree of predictability. The latter regularly turns out films, like The Navigators, that could be released with a blank white poster under the words “A Ken Loach Film.” But now that we’ve had more than a decade to become accustomed to Leigh’s working methods and casting habits, the figures in All Or Nothing look less like they’ve been ripped bloody from real life and more like they’ve been lifted from other Mike Leigh movies.

Exemplary performances, though, even if Dick Pope, Leigh’s cinematographer for most of the last decade, makes the images almost too beautiful. Giving exquisite edge lighting to a character crossing the trash-splattered common ground of a London housing project is a wee bit over the top.

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