Remember this old thing?
Nick Horby’s 2005 book,
‘a long way down’
Recently a film was made starring Pierce Brosnan, Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots and Toni Collette and as the title of this post suggests, it was a long way off perfect.
So you’re standing on the famous cool stone roof of topper’s tower. If you’ve made it this far you really shouldn’t be trembling but the cool London night puts on a fight, whispering harsh taunts down your back. There’s the low hum of slow moving traffic below and you’re surrounded by a distant city lit up by yellow fluorescents. A week ago this sight would be daunting. But now, not so much. You look ahead, which is ironic because that’s why you’re here in the first place. You’re tired of looking ahead and waiting for something better to emerge out of the darkness. So instead you look ahead towards your death. Where you’ll fall, no fly, off the building.
I’ve set the scene simply to create the atmosphere that I felt the film missed.
The book, I felt, is the perfect balance of wit, spontaneity and meaning. The characters aren’t likeable but there not meant to be. You find yourself wanting to dislike them but you simply cannot as ultimately they struggle the same as we do whether it be with identity, loss or loneliness. Because lets face it everyone has problems, some people just deal with it better than others. That doesn’t make the person who copes stronger though, it just makes them different.
Let me introduce you to the worst gang in the world, that together made something brilliant.
Martin Sharp, the humiliated tv presenter who’s lost everything and finds something to care about. The role was taken by Pierce Brosnan, who’s biggest problem is keeping up a south London accent for more than half a sentence. The book character has a cynical sense of humour (a popular British trait) which allows the book to skip along however in the film he’s portrayed as proud and snobbish (a popular British stereotype). I was not overwhelmed by the performance, but I suppose I’m naturally bias against Brosnan, who I find, in a word -cringeworthy.
Jess (Jesse Crichton) is clearly the owner of many psychological issues, she particually struggles with identity. She’s both the most realistic and surreal character. Part of being young is about asking questions. You question everything. Who you are. Why you’re here. What your purpose is. You even question those around you. I felt Imogen Poots did well considering how complex the character is. You understood her frustration even if she did come across as a little spoilt. She acts like a child but she isn’t stupid.
Maureen, a character who was denied the simplest things. The struggling single mum of severely disabled child who is unable to walk and talk. Maureen is left wondering whether her unconditional, relentless love is even acknowledged. The character appears small but is actually stronger than she or anyone else realises. I was utterly disappointed at the portrayal of Maureen, Toni Collette showed us not the everyday hero of today but instead a boring woman. I appreciate the character isn’t exactly the life of the party but I honestly felt myself tuning out whenever she spoke because it was more interesting to stare at the pictures than listen to her speak in that monotone voice. The character is important and keeps the story from being unconvincing.. hmm.. let down much
J.J, Aaron Paul is clearly incredibly talented and anyone else would probably make J.J seem like some lame loser who’s hung up on a dead end dream. This is a character who’s tired, tired of trying and staying the same pathetic nobody everyone sees him as. Aaron Paul hits the nail on the head expressing the anguish and frustration perfectly. However I don’t think he was given enough to work with. J.J is a poet, a music obsessive, frustrated by an industry that revolves around profit (this is something I can relate to), he’s not just a loser and he’s determined to let the world know that.
In summary, if you want a book to have a good old chuckle over but also a good old think this is the one for you. Brilliantly written, its a classic Brit tale that’ll put a smile on your face.
And the movie? Yeah. Why not? If its a rainy Sunday afternoon and you’ve finished the Richard Curtis marathon, you might as well. Its a little bit different at least.
But I do have to warn you. This movie does contain a forced happy ending. Gee. Why do they keep doing this to books?