The mysteriously successful and fascinating career of Pierce Brosnan receives a powerful jolt in Love Is All You Need. Not that he really needs it. Almost uniquely impervious to any kind of analysis or criticism, Brosnan is resolutely Brosnan – since Remington Steele in the 1980s, ever the profoundly couth hero conveniently involved in jobs that permit him to be a slim-suited big spender. Brosnan endures, in the way of small print at the bottom of insurance documents: on some helpless level we know we are being ripped off, but stoically accept that some things are historically unchanging and unmoveable, like the spit-curl on Napoleon’s forehead.
Here Brosnan plays a wealthy widower attending his son’s wedding and falling unexpectedly in love at the event, which takes place in his pulchritudinous villa down the coast from Naples. A Danish co-production (sometimes subtitled and sometimes not, all the actors wing casually and wittily between Danish, Italian and English), the film combines heady romance (love against several odds) and Nordic gloom (breast cancer), painstakingly avoiding explicit soppy hyperbole as though allergic to the kind of film it really is: plushy, corny, swoony. Despite the story’s talk of disease and death and reconstructive surgery and repressed homosexuality, the credits appear on the screen in gold and then disintegrate into fairy dust all over the Sorrento skyline at dawn: a plum-blossom Mediterranean pink that has jaws collectively falling like loose change from pockets all around you.
Tonally the whole thing is pretty nuts, but you can just about dig it. Brosnan’s lover is played by the Danish actress Trine Dyrholm, who will be known to fans of Festen – an unforgettable, experimental film made under the umbrella of the once radical Dogme manifesto, with not much time for sets and lighting and conventional scripts. Tall, with hair the colour of an American school bus and a wide open face only now softly lined (she is 41), Dyrholm conveys a lovely natural amusedness even when her character is lonely or frightened or unhappy. You long to know what she’s really thinking, because she doesn’t say much. As a couple, she and Brosnan ought to come over somewhat absurd – like Liv Ullmann hooking up with Rock Hudson – and yet they don’t. But at its heart this is really one of those movies that operate as second-home porn. Think A Year in Provence or Under the Tuscan Sun. My god, the frescos in the bathroom in that villa! But wouldn’t you move that mid-century sleigh-bed into the room overlooking the private bay?
This sort of thing preoccupies your correspondent even when Korean insurgents are bombing the bejesus out of the White House in Olympus Has Fallen. As Gerard Butler, playing a US secret service operative in the right place at the right time – à la Bruce Willis in Die Hard – trawls through the smoking wreckage of Lincoln’s bedroom (nice cabinets, good heritage almond-coloured paints), he threatens the head of “the United People’s Front of Who Gives a F**k” through a walkie-talkie. You wonder exactly when and how Butler became today’s accepted go-to action hero – and can something officially be done about it?
Down in the bunker with the kidnapped president (Aaron Eckhart), assorted Koreans and outraged Americans do things with nuclear codes and engage in the usual low-level jeering and mutual goading (“Why don’t you and I play a game of go f**k yourself?”). This is the third film in recent months with Koreans as the enemy – the men smooth-handsome and pitiless, the women with glossy hair, castrating barking voices and perfect stripper legs. Here, the reason given for their unstoppable, sadistic, consuming enmity is “globalisation and f**king Wall Street”. Sounds reasonable to me, Gerard.
Promised Land, a film in which ace corporate salesman Matt Damon tries to buy a key rural town on behalf of a liquid gas company in order to subject it to fracking (the controversial deep-level removal method) and hence potential eco-meltdown, has apparently been directed by Gus Van Sant. He was drafted in at the last moment (Damon suddenly decided against directing himself), so there is very little of his personality in the film; it could have been made by anyone.
There was a time when public health-conspiracy moral-dilemma movies such as Silkwood (plutonium processing disaster) or The Insider (tobacco industry skulduggery) nailed it, but the form now is pretty much kaput. We are too liberal, too frightened to nail our colours to the mast. Fatally, figures like Damon (who also produced) and writer Dave Eggers are overly concerned with being even-handed and responsible. They are not confident or bolshy enough about the subject, too aware of eco versus economic pros and cons, to make a blatant anti-fracking movie (it would offend their intelligence) or a movie about the other side either – although that would be interesting. A film about gas workers deprived of their jobs by crazy Greens? I’m there!
Another defunct form is the mocking fly-on-the-wall documentary. F*ck for Forest follows the progress of a charity founded in 2004 by a young Norwegian who leads a gang of dead-eyed European libertines uploading pornographic films of themselves in order to raise money to save a stretch of forest in the Amazon. Effortlessly they made half a million euros and set off to Brazil to find a patch to call their own. However darkly amusing the goings-on, there is always the unpleasant suspicion that things are being heavily manipulated behind the camera. The FFF group are so humourless, so lost, they are surely too-easy targets. Why are we required to judge them quite so harshly?
Me and You, from no less than Bernardo Bertolucci, is so minor, so patched together from left over bits and pieces, it is scarcely there. A sulky teenage boy escapes his carping mother and retreats to live for a week in the basement of his apartment building near Rome, where he is forced to cohabit with his sexy older half sister, on the run from heroin addiction and in need of intense support. These days directing from a wheelchair, the 73-year-old Bertolucci has spoken of seeing life anew – at ground level. Just as his thoughts and ambitions once occupied the high, airy, tender afternoon colours and lyric, abandoned rooms of the Paris block in Last Tango, we descend with him here to an unlovely basement, where dead people leave their furniture and children find a respite from their feelings of confusion and disgust. The film is oddball and sad, with occasional touches of that characteristic Bertolucci forlorn dignity. You know it’s a goodbye.