Best laid plans of lice and men: Manny, Flik and Slim in A Bug's Life
A Bug's Life (U) 95 mins ****
Despite being unquestionably clean and hi-tech, most of this country’s cinemas are infested by insects. If it's not the big, scary alien threat of Starship Troopers, then it's the small, cute anthropomorphism of Antz and A Bug's Life. They know it’s a better career move to hit the big screen, rather than the windscreen.
Made by Pixar Animation Studios, who broke new ground in computer animation with Toy Story, A Bug’s Life takes us to Ant Island, where a colony is busily gathering together food to appease a gang of menacing grasshoppers. When inventive but clumsy worker ant Flik (voiced by Dave Foley) incurs the wrath of gang leader Hopper (Kevin Spacey), he heads off to find heavyweight help to battle against his oppressors and save his home from further destruction.
However, the team of fighters Flik assembles are really members of a flea circus - a gypsy moth, a dung beetle, a praying mantis, a ladybird, a caterpillar, a black widow spider, a stick insect and a pair of incomprehensible Hungarian pillbugs. Thinking they've been booked for a
performance, the circus insects follow Flik to Ant Island; but, when the truth comes out, they stay around and use their wits to see off the grasshoppers for ever.
A Bug’s Life has a stronger story and better character animation than Antz, but it lacks the adult appeal injected into the latter by Woody Allen and various cinematic in-jokes. Antz also had a more interesting social subtext - the struggle of the individual within the system, with associated cross-class and cross-race arguments. That said, the new film presents a more open society - workers are on first-name terms with the royal family - and the circus troupe show an admirable arthropodic diversity.
On a more basic entertainment level, A Bug’s Life holds a kids audience rapt with its colour, humour and engaging heroes - and older viewers won't be immune to its levels of excitement either. The vocal cast addto the energy, with Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce furthering his foppish persona as Slim the stick insect and comedian Denis Leary irascibly voicing his gender confusion as Francis the male ladybird. (Alan Morrison) a General release from Fri 5 Feb.
Hilary And Jackie
Hilary (Rachel Griffiths), her confidence as a mUSIClan fading, marries ebullient conductor Kiffer Finzi (David Morrissey) and retreats into rural domesticity. Jackie (Emily Watson) enjoys sudden international fame, but has to endure the loneliness and grind of foreign tours. Coming to see her talent as both gift and Curse, she develops a love-hate relationship with her cello - leaVing it behind in taxis and exposing it to the elements But she finally thanks the instrument when it brings her close to her husband-to- be, dashing Argentinian pianist Daniel Barenboim (James Frain).
As the mercurial, difficult Jackie, Watson delivers another brilliant
(15) 122 mins **t*
This biopic of Jacqueline du Pre, who died from multiple sclerosis in 1987, has incensed many of the classical music world's great and good, who have rushed into print to condemn the film (some without havmg seen it) as a grotesque distortion of the Jackie they knew. Based on the book A Genius In The Family by the cellist’s Sister Hilary and brother Piers, Hilary And Jackie tells, however, a far more complex,
22 THE lIST 4—18 Feb 1999
honest and moving story than its critics will allow.
The film opens With the sisters as small girls growing up in an intensely musical, but emotionally constipated, middle-class English family. At first, flautist Hilary is the star musiCian, but she is soon overtaken by the daring and intuitive Jackie. When the pair reach adulthood, the film explores their increasingly diverging paths by presenting first one sister’s perspective on events and then the other‘s.
performance, but it's Griffiths, in the less showy role, who anchors the film. The film may not offer any new insights into du Pre's genius (director Anand Tucker sometimes falls back on cliche — sWirling, 360 degree pans and other tics familiar from Shine — in trying to convey the passion of her music) but in its exploration of the tangled skeins of sibling rivalry and love, Hilary And Jackie is Superb.
3 Selected release from Fri 72 Feb.
Pecker (15) 86 mins 1: 1r 1r
Plausibility has never been the strongest of John Waters' many sharp suits. Narrative logic very rarely crops up in his films, replaced instead by jOyful anarchy (the twisting Ricki Lake in Cry Baby), bad taste (the shit- devouring Divine in Pink Flamingos) or sheer nonsense (the scissor-wielding Kathleen Turner in Serial Morn). Yet, while accepting that this is merely the way Waters works, you can still be annoyed at such filmic flippancy.
At the beginning of Pecker, the title character — Edward Furlong at his whiniest — goes around his tiny neighbourhood in Baltimore snapping away at everything and everyone, from graffiti on the walls to girls on the bus, Without the tiniest of complaints, never mind a smack in the mouth. In Waters' world, unlike the real one, no one experiences shyness in front of the camera. Especially not the rats caught humping among the trash cans.
Only when Pecker becomes spotted by an agent, feted by curators and adored by the critics and fellow snappers alike — including Cindy Sherman — do his loved ones feel the negative effects of him becoming the talk of the New York art world. First, the family home is burgled while they are in The Big Apple celebrating his success. Then their interests or obsessions are either cut away (Shelley — a somewhat wasted Christina Ricci — cannot function outwith the environs of her laundromat or among the stench of soiled clothing) or altered (Pecker's little sister switches her lifestyle from candy consumption to rabid veganism).
Still, the simplistic portrayals of the characters and their lives is too galling for words — the art world is full of shallow nafCISSISIS, don’t you know? Only the sheer fun of it all (John Waters Wishes you all to know that it is not the story of his life) rather than any notion of insight or depth, Will probably keep this Pecker up in the box office stakes. (Brian Donaldson) as Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Fi/mhouse from Fri 5 Feb.
Christina Ricci and Edward Furlong in Pecker
STAR RATINGS * 9r * it 1: Unmissable w i: ii it Very good it a: at Worth a shot it it Below average ‘k You've been warned