REVIEW: A Long Way Down

3 12 2014

A Long Way DownThe chief problem with the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel “A Long Way Down” is that the screenplay does not come from Hornby himself.  He is one of few writesrs capable of making telling a grounded, compassionate story out of a scenario involving an accidental New Year’s Eve convening of four suicidal individuals on a London rooftop.

The gathering is eclectic, to say the least.  Among the bunch is a disgraced news anchor Martin (Pierce Brosnan), down-and-out American ex-patriot rocker-cum-pizza boy JJ (Aaron Paul), rebellious wild child Jess (Imogen Poots), and Maureen (Toni Collette), a single mother whose life consist solely of caring for her disabled child.  Nothing would ever bring them together but death, and nothing could keep them together but life. Contradictions and reversals underlie almost all of their story, all of which Hornby navigates gracefully.

Moreover, each character got a chance to narrate their own take on events and plumb the depths of their deep despair on the page.  That wealth of information is lost in the changeover to cinema, and nothing really replaces its intimate gaze into their troubles.  Jack Thorne’s adaptation is not terrible, but it clearly lacks the spark and panache of the source material.  He just captures the general essence of each character, only skimming the surface in the roughly 90 minutes available in “A Long Way Down.”

Director Pascal Chaumeil delivers a film that is definitely fun and entertaining in parts, yet it pales in comparisons to the dizzying highs and devastating lows of reading the novel.  He knows not to attempt the tricky tonal high-wire act of Hornby’s prose, though Chaumeil might have been better off emphasizing either the drama or the comedy of the story rather than taking his nondescript, wishy-washy approach.  His “A Long Way Down” feels short on personality, a real shame given how much Hornby’s book had to spare.  B-2stars

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