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36 THE lIST l9 Nov—3 Dec l998

No song or dance about it: Liam Neeson in Les Miserables

Les Miserables (1 mills ‘3? 1352 12% 5:?

Has the global success of a certain spectacular musical coloured the response by critics and audiences to this new film version of the Victor Hugo novel? With preconceptions left in the foyer, the movre can be enioyed for what it really as - a sombre dual character study that pares away Hugo's extraneous pages to concentrate on the psychological cat-and-rnouse game played by ex-conVict Valjean and police inspector Javert

Bille August, director of Pe/le The Conqueror and The Best Intentions has made a European arthouse mc;Vie filmed on a Hollywood budget. Skipping across the decades, the story follows Valiean (Liam Neeson) as he covers up his prison past now that he has become mayor of a small French

The Slums Of Beverly Hills (191 mll‘IS st:

A keenly observed memoir of the adolescent angst endured by a teenage girl growrng up in an otherwrse all male family, Tamara Jenkins' debut film based on her own experiences - is by turns amuSing and discomforting

Prime among the discomforts is the period detail of this 1976 set story, a garish era of hot pants, shag carpeting and dubious haircuts Yet ViVian (conVincingly portrayed by Natasha Lyonne) is a little more preoccupied With her burgeoning physigue, an object of fascination for her younger brothers, but an inconvenience for this senSItive and lonely girl

Enter free-spirited cousin Rita iMaiisa

town Humble and inherently honourable, Valiean is hounded by Javeit (Geoffrey Rush), whose hatred of his own parentage has perverted his sense of Justice, guite simply, he cannot hear to see a tainted man like Valiean rise higher than himself.

lies mam b/es embodies its moral debate in the characters themselves and creates drama from the friction of their relationships. Neeson delivers a gruff, intense performance as a man shackled to his past, while Rush makes Javer't unlikeable, but never a hissable villain The love story sub-plot featuring Claire Danes and Hans MathCSOn brings a brief notc- of optimism, but the lasting impression is of a film that artfully balances the darkness of its themes and visual images.

iAlan Morrison)

Genera/ re/ease from Fri” 20 Nov See )revrew

The Slums Of Beverly Hills

Tomeii, who introduces Viv to a whole

new world of opportunity and attitude, much to the consternation of her down-at-heel father (played by the peerless Alan Arkin) And all the time, the family moves from one grotty apartment to another, Just Within the limits of the Beverly Hills area, in order to maintain the illusion of middle-class comfort

While the timeless observations of teenage trauma still hold true today, in the end the film seems a little lightweight, no more than a series of intriguing characters in search of a solid plot Perhaps it will speak loudest to fashion designers and teenage girls

and if it helps one or other of those impressionable groups, it \Vlll have served a noble purpose (Anwar Brett) Selected ft"/t’!)scj‘ from Ffl 27 Nov