When a virtuoso actor plays a clumsy idiot, it doesn’t end quite humanely

On the other hand, screenwriter Simon Farnaby, a Gen Xer who could have gleaned some youthful amusement from Flitcroft’s anti-triumphs, might be the main creative force here.

Farnaby has been involved with the Flitcroft case for some time: the screenplay for phantom of openness is an adaptation of a similarly titled biography he co-wrote more than a decade ago.

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His other screenwriters include the popular Paddington films, also set in cozy retro Britain with an outsider hero whose good-natured clumsiness worries snobs.

There are echoes of Paddington’s homely magical realism when Flitcroft fantasizes about flying to a golf ball moon – and Sally Hawkins, who played Paddington’s holy adoptive mother, returns as the hero’s no less wonderfully faithful wife.

Roberts and Farnaby seem eager to reassure us that they themselves are on Flitcroft’s side, in contrast to the TV presenters, who are shown holding him up for snobbish mockery. For the most part, he’s not portrayed as a willful troublemaker or someone with a loose screw, but as an innocent sincerely reaching for a dream.

Of course, this position itself could be viewed as a snobbish, patronizing one. As if to deflect that accusation, we’re regularly reminded that Flitcroft isn’t the simpleton he might initially seem.

The result is a character who isn’t exactly easy to swallow, except in the terms of a sitcom where anything goes. We’re supposed to believe he can quote Oscar Wilde and speaks passable Spanish, but doesn’t know what “handicap” means in golf until it’s too late.

Beyond that lies the paradox of the casting: the decision to cast a notoriously incompetent actor who is a virtuoso and never lets us forget that.

Rylance’s performances often have an eerie quality, suggesting a precise life-size simulation of how a real person might behave – which has made him so alarming and hilarious as the quietly unhinged tech-zillionaire of late Don’t look up.

What he gives us as Flitcroft is another thoughtful portrait, with every detail fully controlled: the slow speech, the roving eyes, the timid but knowing smile, as if privy to some folk wisdom beyond words.

Again, this could be hilarious if we weren’t asked to take the character at face value, like she’s the salt of the earth. As things stand, he’s fascinating, but not entirely human — at least not as human as Paddington Bear.

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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/movies/when-a-virtuoso-actor-plays-a-bumbling-idiot-it-ends-up-not-quite-human-20220713-p5b1ad.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture When a virtuoso actor plays a clumsy idiot, it doesn’t end quite humanely

Jaclyn Diaz

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