Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Taking the Michael

Published Thursday, 10 July 2014
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Sir Michael Caine is London personified, a British movie icon with one of the most distinctive voices in cinema.

Who can forget his classic cockney line from The Italian Job, "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" So why on earth would you mis-cast him as an American in Paris with a totally implausible accent?

But mis-cast him, they have. Mr Morgan's Last Love is a bittersweet tale of old age and new romance from German filmmaker Sandra Nettelbeck. Michael Caine plays Matthew Morgan, a lonely American widower living out his last years in Paris. The retired Princeton professor is a fish out of water in the French capital, unable to speak the language, he wanders the boulevards, haunted by visions of his late wife (Jane Alexander).

Then on a crowded bus, he bumps into Pauline (Clemence Poesy), a charming young dance teacher who sweeps him off his feet. "Maybe if you're not too busy, you could come by my school, if you have time?" she asks him, "I have more time than I need" he replies.

Their chance encounter offers Morgan a final fling at happiness. Soon, the once weary old man is cha-cha-cha-ing to a whole new tune. Under Pauline's positive spell, he shaves off his beard, lunches in the park and day-trips to the country. Together, they explore the meaning of life, love and family.

But with all this excitement, Morgan ends up in the hospital, and his son, Miles (Justin Kirk) and daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson) jet in, to try and persuade him to come home to the U.S.A.

Mr Morgan's Last Love is a million miles away from the usual summer movie release and all the better for it. Especially for those 'silver screeners', the 65+ cinema goers who enjoy the darkness of the matinees. There are poignant lines that will hit home, like when Pauline asks Morgan, when clearing out his wife's wardrobe, does he wish to keep the hangers? "No" he sternly replies "There are few things more depressing than empty coat hangers".

Now 81 years old and with over 150 acting credits, Michael Caine never disappoints, even with his deeply dippy Yankee accent. Which falls so desperately flat it's like the flip reverse of Dick Van Dyke mockney mare in Mary Poppins. Strange decision, as the film is based on a French novel, La Douceur Assassine by Françoise Dorner in which the lead character is French. So why couldn't Caine's Monsieur Morgan have been a Londoner?

The hammy clammy accent only adds to the overall soap opera feel and the scenes unfortunately get frothier towards the end. If you wish to see a more tender and heartbreaking version, watch director Michael Haneke's 2013 Oscar winner, Amour. Despite any reservations, Paris, is beautifully photographed and there are few other places I would rather spend a few pleasing hours.

Mr Morgan's Last Love (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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