Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Lone March Of Being Special

We all make our lives into our own personal mythologies. The songs we know by heart, the films we’ve seen countless times, the fond memories we have of a fun night with a friend that years later you discover the other person barely even remembers at all. “The nineties were awesome,” someone says at one point in YOUNG ADULT and, well, they sort of were even if I didn’t always realize it at the time. It was my decade, the one where I was able to set out in life to try to actually do stuff, to discover so many things out there for the first time. As for the present, I still can’t bring myself to think about where the hell this decade is going. But things seemed right in the nineties. There was still hope, misguided as it may have been. I guess that’s the way it always is if you feel like you’re stuck back in a certain place, wishing that you could stay there to get one more shot at a party with a certain girl before the millennium hits and everything gets ruined. YOUNG ADULT, written by Diablo Cody and directed by Jason Reitman, touches on the whole issue of how fucked up people in the Generation X age bracket can still be but never dwells in it as if aware that people from any era can be fucked up, vicariously still living somewhere in the past. The film was released this past December presumably to give it a prime slot for awards consideration and in spite of some buzz this never really happened maybe because of the response to a lead character that I suspect engendered a greater hatred in people than Glenn Close in FATAL ATTRACTION. And whatever her character did to a rabbit, she never treated a dog this way.
Reaction to the film seems to have been somewhat polarized and it never got much traction at the box office at all but the first time I saw the film I just needed to drive around for a while in silence afterwards as the film stayed with me, thinking about not only my past but my present as well. Because we are all trapped in our own present, whether we like it or not and Jason Reitman seems to be one of the few Hollywood directors actually interested these days in at least trying to make movies about what is happening in the world right now, along with what it all does to people. Exactly one week after seeing George Clooney as a corporate hatchet man in UP IN THE AIR back in 2009 I found myself living my own version of one of the film’s scenes when I was laid off from the entertainment news program I had worked at for several years. With YOUNG ADULT, I was struck not only by how some of it reminded me of certain relationships with women I’ve found myself in but one thing that also nagged at me was how oddly familiar the topography in certain shots seemed. Only later did I discover that much of this Minnesota-set film was actually shot near my old stomping grounds back in Westchester Country in New York, giving me a slight shiver. And trust me, I’ve had periods where two-liter bottles of Diet Coke have stacked up in my apartment so at least part of this is personal. I can’t say I’m completely surprised by the response that YOUNG ADULT got from the world but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with it, not if some of it sticks with me right down to the bone.
Depressive, alcoholic and beautiful Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) lives alone in Minneapolis, ghost author of the popular but about to be cancelled Waverly Prep series of young adult books. When she receives an email from old high school flame Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) announcing the baby he’s just had with wife Beth (Elizabeth Reaser), Mavis becomes consumed with the picture and why he would have sent it in the first place, resulting in the impulsive decision to pack up her tiny dog and travel to her hometown of Mercury where Buddy still lives to get him back, newborn be damned. Going out drinking on her first night at old haunt Woody’s she runs into Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) a former classmate still crippled from a hate crime attack he suffered senior year and Matt quickly becomes the only one who Mavis, shut off from the rest of her life, is able to confide in about why she’s back in town. Their relationship grows even after she meets up with Buddy and begins to put her plan into effect, determined to win him back once and for all.
Mavis Gary lives by her own mythology, consumed solely with what’s going on in her head, into her own journey to recapture her past to a point that she barely seems to understand what that would even mean and blind to the actual reality in front of her as much as Isabelle Adjani in THE STORY OF ADELE H. I can’t say that I have any particular unfinished business with the town I grew up in but I am more than a little aware that there are people in my life who have graduated into the comfort of suburbia in a way that maybe just isn’t a part of my wiring, that separation in the world between people gladly puttering around their kitchen late at night and those who are still out at a bar someplace, maybe a little later than they should be. And there are those women who have looked at me with the sort of piercing stare Mavis has, something that will forever terrify and intrigue me all at once. Maybe that’s what keeps me out there. It’s not quite a miracle that something as dark as YOUNG ADULT got made, not with the talent involved, but it does seem a little surprising that it was able get produced and released by Paramount, a major studio no less. The way things turned out maybe it should have been handled by a boutique label but at least YOUNG ADULT exists, as defiant as it absolutely needs to be, which as far as I’m concerned is all that really matters.
A film with a lead character so locked into her place in life that though she seems to understand at least some of what’s wrong with her she doesn’t seem to have a clue how to correctly change it, instead just choosing instead to sit around eating ice cream and drinking whiskey while watching a pre-teen girl on some reality show singing “We’ve Only Just Begun” (good Christ), falling further into an existence of self-hatred, listening to a certain mixtape from back in the day over and over. Did you know I used to make mixtapes for friends? That was a long time ago. Mavis Gary doesn’t seem to be Diablo Cody, at least not completely, but the film seems to nail something about the process of writing, how much you can just wind up sitting there before you start distracted by anything that comes into your view, going days without actually seeing anyone you know in person and pretending to be on your Blackberry when stuck in public for a few spare moments. At one point someone says, “You sound just like one of your crazy characters,” to her after she makes a crack about the nearby “KenTacoHut” as if she’s expected to be putting every ounce of quirk out there for the world to enjoy, a perceptive little moment of how a writer must feel about being pigeonholed in such a way and Mavis Gary is continually peering at the smiling faces in front of her, wondering if they’re judging her, judging them for even the possibility of judging her.
Essentially the lead character of the reality show in her own head and clearly in denial about the impending end of the Waverly Prep series, watching Mavis deal with the people from her hometown whether she remembers them or not is always fascinating, psychotic prom queen bitch to some, cool local-girl-made-good-in-the-big-city to others. She makes a simple utterance like “Hi, mom” sound like a moment of total defeat and her parents dismissing her statement that she might be an alcoholic with a light dismissive chuckle has to be one of the most dead on accurate, yet still tossed off, moments depicting a family not admitting their child really is an adult (technically, anyway) that I’ve ever seen. But the films’ attitude towards everyone remains grounded even in the most snidely comic moments, with even the sterile plasticness of the Champion O’Malley’s chain restaurant shot in a fairly warm, naturalistic style and Cody’s script stays away from the stylized dialogue that everyone either loved or hated about JUNO, never condescending to anyone with even those characters who only get a few scenes feeling like they have a full life away from this story. Patrick Wilson’s Buddy is in some ways the more settled in version of the Jason Bateman character from the earlier film, once a popular high school jock now totally comfortable with living a normal domestic life in his hometown as if he’s perfectly content to only be cool in someone’s memory. He’s totally fulfilled living in dull suburban glory with Elizabeth Reaser’s Beth, the only character who seems to be able to express any sort of joy as we see in her band playing that Teenage Fanclub song, where she has essentially stolen what Mavis thought was hers, messing with her own mythology but she doesn’t even know it.
Patton Oswalt’s Matt has essentially imploded into living in his childhood home with his sister, drinking at Woody’s and assembling those figurines, never able to move past the horrific beating that crippled him back in high school—it seems like having it be determined that what happened to you actually isn’t a hate crime after all, being told that it essentially didn’t matter, would be just as bad. The chemistry between Theron and Oswalt, not to mention how the scenes between the two of them are written by Cody, makes me wish that there could be another half hour of the film with just the two of them but Reitman admirably has pared his film down to the essentials with not a wasted beat in the entire 93 minutes and none of the deleted scenes on the Blu-ray feel like they need to go back in. Even small moments speak volumes, like that look Mavis and Matt share during the performance by Beth’s band Nipple Confusion--he doesn’t know the exact significance of the song being played but it doesn’t matter and the ultimate connection between these two is what holds through every one of these glances.
The dilemma of Mavis Gary, getting progressively drunker as she proceeds closer to her moment of truth with Buddy, obsessively pulling her hair out, undergoing those repeated makeovers, coming home to that Pomeranian that she barely pays attention to with godawful reality television seeping into her brain at every single moment, is universal but the undercurrent of Generation X getting older is always there, forever prevalent like Matt’s Star Wars-named special bourbon he’s made that Mavis mispronounces. And whether or not the film should be labeled a ‘comedy’ seems to be in the eye of the beholder of whoever’s watching it but for me it is funny, much as some people may not want to admit it--the look she gives Buddy and Beth’s baby, her spitting out ‘whatever, bookMAN,’ to the kid in the bookstore, how she reverts to the mean snark of her old high school self when she talks about Matt with Buddy. But there’s sadness there in terms of where things have gone since the nineties—I was just watching TWO-LANE BLACKTOP and found myself associating how Jason Reitman is clearly trying to make his own version of seventies films with that movie, thinking of how its presentation of Route 66 Americana has turned completely sour in YOUNG ADULT, resulting in a nonstop highway filled with nothing but Kardashians and chain restaurants. Mavis Gary is who she is. But the world isn’t much help either.
It’s not a movie that has resentment towards the people who have been able to find that happiness in their lives but an acknowledgment of the people who feel the other way, who sometimes all they can possibly do is glare at them, knowing nothing but the emptiness that happiness makes them feel. Expressing everything in an internal monologue in the form of the final Waverly Prep book she’s writing Mavis Gary doesn’t grow from her experience and in the end seems relieved that she doesn’t even have to. But she does seem to be able to finally put Mercury in the rearview mirror of her Mini Cooper once and for all. Maybe in her own mind the entire place, not just Buddy and Beth, is just ‘lost at sea’. Beyond that I don’t know because, after all, people don’t really change and, much like the special needs kids taught by Beth, Mavis can never quite form the correct emotions in her own head. She doesn’t seem to express very much about the horrible thing that happened to Matt way back in the past at all, yet her “You’re a piece of shit” to him is meant with total affection, maybe as it should be. And when she puts her hand up to his face near the end, a moment of connection with this person in her life who she never gave a moment’s thought to until just a few days ago, I almost lose it. What does that say about me? What does that say about certain women I’ve been attracted to? What does that say on my feelings about this film, the best work by its writer and director to date? More than once in the past I’ve looked up ex-girlfriends on Facebook, or even some that I wish had been my girlfriend, only to find a profile photo of them smiling and holding a baby. I click away. I don’t go back. Sometimes you really do need to face the future.
Few actresses are as fearless as Charlize Theron is these days and she is one-hundred percent willing to portray Mavis as nasty as possible with not a moment that doesn’t seem genuine. How she downs that first glass of Makers Mark at Woody’s, the absolute defiance she presents in her glare, even the way she walks. She’s so good we can even see how the occasional smile coming out of her is as much a performance Mavis is putting on as anything. And her big scene on the lawn as she finally lays everything out is just extraordinary. She doesn’t care anymore how much anyone hates her and it’s clear Theron doesn’t as well, resulting in one of the strongest lead performances seen in the past several years. Patton Oswalt (“Take that, liver!”) is just amazing as well as someone who has stayed in this town, who can’t let go of the past and freely knows it. Playing Matt as no longer intimidated by Mavis the way he probably was in high school as he takes pride in that bourbon he’s concocted in his garage he doesn’t overdo his big scene, instead spitting it out because what he has to recount is so horrible there’s no need to make a big thing out of it. Oswalt deserved every bit of acclaim he got but he deserved more and hopefully he’ll get a chance to prove that in the coming years. Patrick Wilson brings a quiet genuineness to Buddy, a guy who doesn’t have much to say about his life beyond what he has for lunch but completely ok with that. In every gesture he makes it clear how much he’s gladly moved beyond whatever happened in his past and how comfortable he now is. Elizabeth Reaser brings a relaxed attitude to Beth, a ‘cool mom’ who it seems like spending some time with would actually be an enjoyable experience and she just nails those moments where she needs to stand out, particularly that moment of uninhibited joy while on the drums with her band. Jill Eikenberry and Mary Beth Hurt also make strong impressions as mothers with memories of a great many things never spoken of while Collette Wolfe in the small but crucial role as Matt’s sister nails her big scene near the end. Without what she does here things just wouldn’t be the same.
A defiant slap at anyone who insists that a film’s lead character needs to be even remotely likable, YOUNG ADULT gets to me deep down in a way that new films rarely do anymore. I suspect that many people who watch this film hate Mavis Gary but I don’t. I can’t hate Mavis Gary, as awful a person as she is. Maybe because I often feel stuck the way she does. But hey, I’m not drinking much Diet Coke these days, so maybe that’s something. I only wish Mavis well and even though she’s probably just going to go right back to her apartment I hope she realizes all the possibilities she now has in front of her, now that maybe she’s finally able to move on from the nineties and her past. And even more than the booze, I hope she gives up all that fast food and reality TV. It would really be for the best in the long run. But I know all too well that you should never try to make certain women do anything. Even if they do toss you a little glint of a smile every now and then.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Genetic Impossibility

Contrary to what you might believe from the name of this blog, the classic TV show THE AVENGERS isn’t really that much of a thing with me. The name Mr. Peel did come from my own particular fondness for Diana Rigg, the actress legendary for playing Mrs. Peel and that the character’s missing husband was named Peter Peel was a nice bit of happenstance for me (sending out regards to the indomitable M.A. Peel who I know really is a very big fan of the show) but even as far as that goes it all maybe has more to do with ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE than anything. Plus my interest in Diana Rigg has been kind of superseded by others as the years have gone on but, regardless, the name sort of stuck. I like the show THE AVENGERS very much, don’t get me wrong, but I haven’t seen an episode in years and I’ve always managed to resist the lure of that Complete Emma Peel Megaset on DVD. Even so, when the film of THE AVENGERS was announced in the late 90s it sounded like a terrific idea and the first trailers that appeared in early 1998 got me pretty excited. The cast was promising, the look was intriguing and the whole thing just seemed to exude a sense of cool. Shows you what I know. Word was out by the time the film finally appeared with zero critic screenings in the dead of August after being moved off a prime June slot and pretty quickly turned into a giant flop. If you’ve ever seen it then you know why. Some of THE AVENGERS does hit a certain odd tone that makes it tempting to consider that it got a raw deal at the time but those moments don’t last very long. Much as I hate to say something like this the film may really be a total miscalculation even if it is at least an attempt to do something a little different. The sad truth is that sometimes these things just don’t work at all.
Bowler-wearing John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), special agent of the Ministry, is assigned to meet with Dr. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman), brilliant scientist in charge of the Prospero Project, a giant weather-related shield being constructed. When they meet with Ministry head ‘Mother’ (Jim Broadbent) he informs them that Mrs. Peel, as she insists on being called, is in fact the chief suspect in a recent break-in at the Prospero labs which resulted in the place being blown up and they even have film of Mrs. Peel there. She protests her innocence and the investigation undertaken by Steed and Peel leads them to the spectacularly wealthy Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery), who in collaboration with Ministry second-in-command ‘Father’ (Fiona Shaw), has his own plan to control all the weather on the planet imaginable and, of course, rule the world.
I’m not sure if that’s even a correct summary of the plot of THE AVENGERS since it’s honestly tough to tell at times and if it doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, well, there you go. Even when certain elements like the Emma Peel double remain active throughout they’re never explained very well at all and right from the beginning it’s hard not to wonder about the plot logic of Mrs. Peel being assigned to the case even though she’s the chief suspect. If that’s supposed to be part of the absurdity it doesn’t come off. If that’s just supposed to be the plot it never makes much sense. Not to mention that you’d think a movie, any movie, would be able to do something with the concept of having two Uma Thurmans running around but THE AVENGERS doesn’t even pull that off which maybe causes the entire thing to be a failure all on its own. Directed by Jeremiah Chechik (NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, BENNY & JOON), THE AVENGERS feels like a genuine attempt at making a big-budget franchise with style, evoking the cool of the 60s flavor in a way that isn’t chained down to strict realism, something that would be a little different than the typical bombastic 90s action or the way the genre was being spoofed in AUSTIN POWERS. But it feels like something was fumbled somewhere along the way as if the ideas they came up with during conception and in writing the screenplay simply didn’t translate combined with studio notes insisting that the whole thing be bigger, noisier, not so much emphasis on the wit.
Running just under 90 minutes (actually, if you cut the opening and closing credits it comes to about 81) it’s no surprise to learn that the film was substantially recut after poor test screenings and a number of deleted scenes can even be spotted in the trailer but whatever has been left in never really makes much sense at all—I don’t know any inside dirt but it seems that the film originally opened with a big action scene showing the Emma Peel double breaking into the Prospero lab, a pretty sizable lift and I wonder if the whole plotline of two Mrs. Peels just played as confusing. Much as I can appreciate a film that attempts to be genuinely bizarre in its stylistic approach there’s never anything here to grasp onto, no story that ever makes sense in any rational or irrational way so all we get are just Fiennes or Thurman raising an eyebrow at whatever odd thing is happening in the hope that some sort of joke will land. I doubt the extensive cutting helped matters but so many of the scenes that remain just sit there as flat as can be so I kind of doubt that this is a case where a studio butchered a masterpiece…or even something that was much more coherent. As it is, very little works at all, whether it has to do with the plot or whatever odd surrealism the film tries to inject. Even its basic conception of the two leads just seems wrong on a basic level with the needed chemistry never causing so much as a spark—Steed’s hat never looks quite right on Fiennes and the way Thurman is often made up (with awkward costumes, hair that doesn’t seem right and heavy eyeshadow that does her no favors) makes the actress look oddly unappealing, desexualizing what has to be one of the most desired female characters ever, which has to be some kind of neat trick.
While watching THE AVENGERS I find myself forced to address the issue of the difference between whimsically odd and just being weird for weird’s sake. Part of the visual conceit seems to be to make everything within the frame sparse, from the landscapes out in the country to the streets of London, devoid of people or much activity at all but the way it’s presented feels slightly off as if it’s not a style but an overall incomplete effect to the whole thing. You can feel the effort that is being put into it all in an old-school craftsman sort of way, reminiscent of any number of blockbusters made in England that were filmed at Pinewood or Elmstree studios but too much of the production design feels like it’s been seen before, overly reminiscent of films such as BRAZIL or Tim Burton’s first BATMAN and it prevents this film from ever achieving enough identity of its own. Cinematographer Roger Pratt (who shot both of those films, incidentally) at least provides for a clean sense of composition in his work, one area where it feel’s like someone’s own approach to the design comes together but there’s not enough going on around all that. When we get a brief look at security footage from the Prospero break in it appears to be intriguingly shot in a silent movie style of LES VAMPIRES or something and the unusual flavor it gives off does provide a momentary kick but such sparks feel too few and far between, with the film instead being more interested on giving us things like a godawful annoying action scene involving Steed and Peel being attacked by giant mechanical bees which just feels like it’s meant to be noisy. Part of the problem is scale and maybe the only way to do a film of THE AVENGERS would be to make it small, avoid the explosions and effects and bad guys trying to control the world and Big Ben exploding and sets and setpieces out of a Bond film. Keep some of that sparseness but instead make it a surreal mystery with odd science fiction elements and as much Steed-Peel patter as possible. Which of course is exactly what a would-be blockbuster meant to kick off a franchise isn’t allowed to do.
It’s easy to list the things that don’t work in THE AVENGERS but trying to imagine how they could have cohered into something that would have worked seems almost impossible. Actually, two separate characters state “Nothing is impossible” at different points in the film which is either thematic consistency or an odd redundancy, I’m still not sure which. Maybe the screenplay by Don McPherson was a case of something reading great on the page that just didn’t translate but I still wonder—the repartee between Fiennes and Thurman is often flatter than it should be and when the two of them try to banter I just zone out, as if I’m being lulled to sleep by the monotones of their voices. The words that are on the page also still feel a few high-paid rewrites away from feeling right with too many lame one-liners, a few pauses for teatime too many (taking the time for tea is all anyone ever needs to know about England, I guess) and unnecessary attempts at jokes when there should be, well, style. When the film has Steed and Peel kiss late in the film it makes sense that any diehard fan of the series would react in anger at what a violation it is but putting that aside it feels wrong for the film anyway and I almost wonder if it was a reshoot, an attempt at patching up what turned out to be zero heat between the two leads so the studio just decided to launch a Hail Mary pass to make it seem like they did. It doesn’t work. Every now and then a moment sticks out in a good way—the hypnotic effect those giant magnifiers have when Connery as Sir August steps forward to talk about the genetic impossibility of a flower that he created, when henchman Eddie Izzard tries on Steed’s hat and looks like he just stepped out of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE or best of all when Mrs. Peel is trapped in Sir August’s castle and in trying to escape finds herself trapped in a Möbius loop in the time honored KILL BABY KILL/TWIN PEAKS fashion. She eventually crashes out of a window to escape and when she finds herself back on temporal ground it feels a little like a letdown to be back in the ‘real’ world but for a few moments all the elements of whatever surrealism the production was going for have finally come together in the right way.
Unfortunately, moments like that don’t happen often enough. THE AVENGERS is meant to be about the conservative Steed placed up against the mod, stylish Mrs. Peel but none of that comes across, it’s just two people lightly (very lightly) bantering with one another for no real reason. The chemistry between the two leads is so nonexistent that maybe everyone should have called a halt to things on the first day of shooting and the film never gives the impression that it’s particularly excited that Sean Frigging Connery is playing the villain in it. Even after multiple times of watching the scene where his character is first mentioned I’m still not sure why they’re going to visit him beyond the fact that they need to introduce the bad guy and too much of the time the dialogue, exposition or patter, just makes no impression whatsoever as if it’s all delivered so flat that it just slips off the screen with some dialogue, like when Connery first meets Thurman, sounding tinny and dubbed (for more dubbing fun, at one point he’s heard to refer to ‘a million dollars’ when his lips seem to say ‘ a million pounds’ presumably an attempt to dumb things down further that just makes me shake my head). I’m guessing that his greeting the two lead characters separately with, “Peel. Emma Peel.” and “Steed. John Steed.” was mean to be a joke but the staging kills it each time.
When Connery’s Sir August assembles a team of cohorts dressed in giant teddy bear suits in what I suppose is supposed to be a spin on a Bond villain explaining a plot to a group of associates instead of being charming and surreal all it does is get me to wonder why I’m watching a scene with all these giant bear suits. Why are you doing this to me? Why are you making my head hurt? It’s a film where it feels like since nothing much works it depends on the music and you can feel Joel McNeely’s energetic score sweating as it works overtime to bring some life to all this, doing about as good a job as any mortal could with his main title in particular correctly evoking a certain mood. The legendary theme by Laurie Johnson also turns up at the beginning and end, so at least there’s that. Wind blows, explosions occur, people show up and disappear but not much of anything makes an impact. It’s all just noise, a joke being told by someone who doesn’t quite get the punchline. The film begins propelling itself towards the climax before it even hits the hour mark and all of the fights or explosions never feel like they matter, just as there’s never anyone seen out on the streets of London. Huge explosions aren’t what anyone wants to see in THE AVENGERS anyway, at least they shouldn’t be. What a shame. For a film that clearly wants to be stylishly sparse it merely feels absolutely empty. It isn’t cool.
Ralph Fiennes is obviously game as John Steed but maybe he doesn’t have the right sort of joie de vivre for this kind of role in his wheelhouse so the hoped-for light touch never happens and everything he does just seems to cruise along at the same low hum the entire time. Uma Thurman, who I normally find impossible to say anything bad about, simply doesn’t seem to have much of a clue how to play Emma Peel. When she’s trying to be light it’s too blithe, when she’s trying to be concerned it’s just a stage too panicked and ultimately she just doesn’t get the right tone at all (the Mrs. Peel clone she also plays never gets to exhibit any personality whatsoever so it doesn’t matter). When she’s being held captive while strait-jacked it’s easy to imagine Rigg playing it head cocked, emphasizing the lunacy with just the right dollop of concern in her huge eyes but Thurman just plays it for desperation so it doesn’t work. Maybe these roles really were meant to be played by Brits.
Sean Connery seems energetic and pleased to be there in a happy-with-the-trailer-he-was-given sort of way but the film ultimately does not much of anything with his presence, reducing most of his screen time to tiny little cameos where he banters with one of his co-stars. It’s all the more of a shame because this is as close as we’ll ever get to the daydream of seeing Sean Connery returning to the Bond series by playing a bad guy and the film just isn’t deserving of him. The British character actors who appear find more to do with the material—Jim Broadbent is enjoyable as always, spitting out dialogue fast as possible through his cigarette as ‘Mother’, Fiona Shaw offers the right kind of intensity to ‘Father’ even if little about her character feels like it makes any sense and Elieen Atkins as Ministry agent Alice, in what I’m assuming was a role offered to Diana Rigg, gets the tone in her dialogue that Uma Thurman totally misses, balancing out the right sort of absurdity and seriousness for the situation in her voice particularly in her answer when asked if Sir August tortured her. She’s only around for a few scenes and it’s not much but in this film it’s something. She also gets to share the screen with Connery at one point and it’s hard not to imagine how special that moment would have played with Diana Rigg but I suspect she knew how this would all turn out. Patrick Macnee, or rather his voice, turns up in a cute cameo as Invisible Jones who offers Steed some needed information. It’s kind of random and just weird for the sake of being weird but at least we get to listen to the voice of Patrick Macnee for a few minutes so I won’t complain. Eddie Izzard is Sir August’s henchman who (almost) never speaks, a conceit that shouldn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t get anything to do but that’s pretty much how things work out, another joke in the film where ultimately there is no joke.
As the classic AVENGERS theme kicks up near the end, Steed and Peel sip some champagne and congratulate each other on ‘a job well done’. Well, we know otherwise. It’s too bad things turned out this way since it really does feel like there was a tone and spirit to nail that could have resulted in a good film. That’s the way it goes sometimes. For now, my fondness for Diana Rigg, as Mrs. Peel and other roles as well, will remain. And anyone who really does love THE AVENGERS has probably forgotten this film even existed by now. As time has gone on I’ve gotten less and less interested in writing about films that don’t work or, in some cases, are outright bad. Sure, sometimes it can be fun to talk about bad movies but more often for me it can just be depressing. But sometimes you just need to. Sometimes you need to remember the ones that were disappointing and try to understand why they turned out that way. And maybe it helps you remember why you wish you could love them as well. Because I wish I could love THE AVENGERS and kind of hate that I can’t. So I just go on writing things like this. And besides, I have to do something while continuing that search for my own Mrs. Peel.