Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Mona Lisa (1986)

George (Hoskins) and Simone (Tyson) on the job.

Directed by Neil Jordan
Produced by Patrick Cassavetti and Stephen Woolley
Written by Neil Jordan and David Leland
Starring Bob Hoskins, Michael Caine, Cathy Tyson, Robbie Coltrane, Clarke Peters, and Kate Hardie

****

Neil Jordan's breakthrough film sees him at home with disparate characters in grim circumstances. The film's antihero is George (Hoskins), a bitter ex-con returning to life on the outside, who gets a job through his old boss Mortwell (Caine) driving a high-class prostitute named Simone (Tyson). As George spends more time with her, he starts to care about Simone, and he becomes very protective of her. Rebuffing his affections, Simone convinces George to look for her friend Cathy (Hardie), a young girl trapped in a brutal prostitution ring. Despite putting him at odds with some dangerous characters, finding Cathy becomes George's mission, even if it means endangering his life for Simone's happiness.

Though this bleak, touching romance is never fulfilled, it finds redemption in George's act of kindness. George and Simone are tortured souls trying to live better lives, and, as strangers, they pass like ships in the night, helping each other along the way. Playing the titular representation of the Mona Lisa, Tyson personifies Simone's beauty, whilst conveying her internal struggle behind the mask of enigma. Of course, Hoskins deserves a lot of praise, nailing George's anger, suffering, weariness, and moments of helpless rage. Though he's not in the film much, Michael Caine is deliciously ruthless as the slimy Mortwell. Also, Roger Pratt's cinematography is both gritty and enticingly bare, and Michael Kamen's score is a moving commentary on this grim fairy tale. This does feel like an '80s film, but it's a beautifully told story aided by solid performances and a small, but effective, production. In short, it's an underappreciated indie from the 1980s.

Oscar Tally: Nomination for Best Actor

8 comments:

  1. I saw this film on February as part of my Blind Spot series and wow, I was absolutely stunned by what I saw. It's definitely one of the great films of the British cinema and I think Bob Hoskins' best performance. I also loved the use of Genesis' "In Too Deep" in that film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree on all accounts. Actually, I've got "In Too Deep" stuck in my head, and I've been listening to it on repeat since I saw the film on Friday.

      Delete
  2. I saw this when it first came out, in theaters, and I remember George as a complex, compassionate, and interesting character. Lovely review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! LOVED this film. I'm updating my top 100 soon, and it's already on my new list. :)

      Delete
  3. I've never even heard of this one, I thought you meant Mona Lisa Smile in the comments on my post, ahah. Wow, the cast is fabulous, I gotta give this a watch one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha. I never even finished Mona Lisa Smile. Yeah, it's streaming on Netflix. ;)

      Delete