Boogie Woogie Review: Flat-Footed Wallflower


boogiewoogie300210BOOGIE WOOGIE (15): On General Release Friday 16th April

Up close a Braque painting doesn’t make a lot of sense. The geometric shapes and disjointed lines don’t portray anything. Take a few steps back and look at the canvas as a whole and it’s easier to see what he’s getting at.

Boogie Woogie, a British movie directed by Duncan Ward, works in the opposite way. Individual scenes come off quite well but as a feature film it falls flat. Consequently, It’s hard to describe what kind of film Boogie Woogie is, but it’s apparent that the filmmakers weren’t sure either.

It tells the story of back-stabbing art dealer Art Spindle (Danny Huston) who is desperate to get his hands on a Mondrian painting, as is his chum and rival Bob Maccelstone (Stellan Skarsgard). The owner Alfred Rhinegold (Christopher Lee) won’t give up the piece for any price, though his wife (Joanna Lumley) knows they need the money.

Other narratives plod forward alongside the main drive. Dewey (Alan Cumming) is being used by his so called friend, video-artist Elaine (Jaime Winston), Art’s PA (Heather Graham) is making deals behind his back and Bob’s wife (Gillian Anderson) wants a divorce. Meanwhile everyone is taking drugs and bonking each other while bleating “absolutely fantastic” and “I loooove it, how much?”

Though probably best described as a satire, the most biting thing Boogie Woogie can come up with is that the art world is shallow and driven by money. Who knew?

Never knowing whether it wants to be a biting satire, black comedy or melodrama, it doesn’t achieve any of these labels and struggles to maintain interest. There seems to be too many in-jokes for those in the art world, the very people it sets out to show up. The central plot lacks drive because it’s difficult to care less about what happens.

A better script and stronger satirical nerve could have made this movie worthwhile. The all-star cast certainly has the potential but they have too little to work with.

Two final notes. First – there’s nothing worse then the sound of synthesized brass which sadly forms most the soundtrack. It sounds cheap and nasty like a demo on a toy keyboard and doesn’t fit any scene it’s heard in. Second – if this film has one redeeming feature it’s for male viewers. Most of the female leads are eager to show their breasts, which is never a bad thing, but these perks aren’t worth sitting through the whole film for.

It fails at satire and everything else it attempts, which is everything. A shame given the cast and concept.