Mr. Turner opens in select theaters this Friday. It expands to Chicago’s Landmark Century Theatre on Christmas Day.
Mike Leigh’s biopic on J.M.W Turner is an oddity. At its center one will find Timothy Spall as the titular character, though to suggest this is a performance would agitate the word. No, the man grunts and wheezes throughout the picture, often rendering much of Spall’s dialogue indecipherable. But this soupçon of Altman-esque technique touches on what makes Mr. Turner so tough to scrutinize. In our difficulty to make out lines of dialogue, the audience finds solace in the frame, marveling at the stunning imagery that Leigh and cinematographer Dick Pope display. The ugliness of their character’s features highlights an effort in atmosphere-building and behavior study, effectively recalibrating our expectations as to what a biopic can do. In essence, Mr. Turner submits that the tried-and-true-and-trite subgenre of biopics should not depend on overacted displays of histrionics, but rather accentuate the everyday. Yet in Leigh’s world, the everyday is filled with its highs and lows, with a disproportionate amount of the latter coinciding with old age.Read More