LONDON FIELDS: Lip Bite Featured

Every now and then a movie comes along that is so singularly ill-conceived, so gigantically rotten at its core, it demands I break the format. LONDON FIELDS is such a film.

This is the kind of movie that demands I explore it via the multiple levels of odiousness it chooses to push into your face. The ways it punishes the viewer for having the nerve to buy a ticket to it in the first place. It isn’t bad, or at least not just bad. It exists in a world beyond bad where performances, writing, directing and so all crumble before the film’s probably largely accidental dedication to being as unpleasant as possible.

Theo James and Jim Sturgess circle Amber Heard not realizing they’re the prey while Billy Bob Thornton looks on in a scene from LONDON FIELDS. (GVN Releasing)

The Good Things in LONDON FIELDS

But before I explore that, I suppose I should at least highlight what good there was.

Billy Bob Thornton as the lead and narrator Samson Young is sleepy to the point of being a somnambulist but it fits the character and he still gives great voiceover as fans of THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE know.

Jason Isaacs is gloriously arrogant and self-involved as paperback author/success story Mark Asprey. He is wonderfully charming in pure narcissism.

Amber Heard has an absolute dog’s breakfast of a role. However, she kind of kills it. As one character muses, one might “confuse her for a male fantasy figure,” but damned if she doesn’t put a bit of a nasty twist on it. Her improbably Nicola Six makes the prospect of fulfilling your fantasies a very unpleasant thought indeed.

Jim Sturgess’s Keith Talent has an impromptu dance number that plays like some sort of weird alternate universe Singin’ in the Rain. It is probably the one time I smiled all film.

Lastly, Cara Delevingne puts on a Cockney accent to play Talent’s wife Kath and she does it well. After finding her either used badly (SUICIDE SQUAD), stuck with a zero chemistry scene partner (VALERIAN), or miscast in a difficult to pinpoint but undeniable way (PAPER TOWNS), it was interesting to see her turn in an acting job I actually liked. It is a blink and you miss it kind of role but still. In a movie where no one can seem to find the tone, she does.

LONDON FIELDS: The Talents at home
Cara Delevingne (with Jim Sturgess) is exhausted by an alternate timeline London of the late 90’s in LONDON FIELDS. (Courtesy of GVN Releasing)

The Odiousness of Keith Talent in LONDON FIELDS

I have long been a proponent of the idea that one does not need to populate a film with likable characters. It is entirely possible to produce a worthwhile movie in which the characters are not likable. That said, there is unlikable and then there is LONDON FIELDS’ Keith Talent.

The script clearly does not intend Talent to be likable. Written as unpleasant, braggadocious, and utterly gross, Sturgess more than fulfills expectations. Boy oh boy does Sturgess deliver.

A big problem is certainly the prosthetic teeth the film likes to linger on, to caress with its gaze. They are a parody of British teeth that would not be out of place in an AUSTIN POWERS movie shot with the kind of attention a pornographer might save for a pair of breasts. It is stomach turning.

All of this, though, might be ok if not for the fact that, at some point, the movie expects us to feel sorry for Talent. I wouldn’t have loved him, certainly, but I could have written him off. Instead, the movie expects us to have sympathy for how falling for Nicola Six has ruined him.

One can absolutely find compassion for an adulterous alcoholic destroyed by falling for a femme fatale. LONDON FIELDS works so hard to make him a gross monster there is no coming back from it. The movie pushed him too far for us to care about him losing his darts tournament.

LONDON FIELDS: Jim Talent's bad teeth
Just a hint of the terrible fake teeth of Jim Sturgess in LONDON FIELDS. (Courtesy of GVN Releasing)

The Odiousness of Missed Opportunities in LONDON FIELDS

The setting of LONDON FIELDS is an alternate universe 1999 in which England is on the brink of collapse. Nuclear war is a threat from the outside and authoritarianism from the inside. The rich are fleeing and, as they do, the cities continue to degenerate. It has the potential to be a fascinating setting in and of itself.

However, there are plot points that make it capable of even more. For one, Young is dying. It is why he has elected to move to this crumbling society, the hope he can achieve one last book by drawing from the chaos around him. Thus, the environment can mirror the man’s physical state and vice versa. The movie never even tries to do this, near as I can divine.

For the most part, in fact, the rot of societal upheaval barely registers on-screen. Yes, the pub the leads frequent is a dump. True, in overheads of the city we almost always see a block on fire. However, in terms of the characters day to day life, at no point does the potential end of London seem to affect them at all. They move freely. They never seem threatened by looting, riots, or roving police gangs. The world may be burning but these folks seem to be doing just fine.

I know the setting is in the novel but why spend the time establishing it if you are not going to use it to help things at all?

Amber Heard dresses for guests in a scene from LONDON FIELDS. (Courtesy of GVN Releasing)

The Odiousness of Johnny Depp: A Brief History

I have no intention of raising the classic “Can you oppose an artist’s behavior and still appreciate their art?” here. It is a fine topic of discussion and a fascinating for sure. However, that’s not my objection to Johnny Depp’s presence here.

Some quick background. When LONDON FIELDS wrapped several years ago, Depp and Amber Heard remained married. Since the filming, they have been divorced. More importantly, we now know that on at least one occasion — but likely more — Depp brutally beat Heard. Although Depp has continued to not admit his crimes, a significant number of photos would suggest otherwise. Eventually, the parties settled out of court and Heard gave away the court ordered payments to charity. Of course, giving the money away has not stopped all manner of misogynist, abuse apologist, and generally unpleasant person from insisting Heard is nothing but an opportunistic gold digger.

Billy Bob Thornton and Amber Heard enjoy a nice totally normal meal in a moment from LONDON FIELDS. (Courtesy of GVN Releases)

The Odiousness of Johnny Depp in LONDON FIELDS

With all this in mind, picture this: Depp groping and kissing Heard for several minutes of a scene.

It is stomach churning, yes? And yet, there it is, on-screen, in the final third of the film.

To be clear and/or fair, Talent losing the dart tournament and then, sort of, his mind, depends on this “betrayal.” However, this certainly could have been accomplished a number of other ways. Implication — perhaps not as visceral, but it gets the job done. Flirting — still uncomfortable but not nearly as horrible. The revelation that Nicola had slept with Young and Guy Clinch (Theo James) before she ever slept with Talent — it is true and Talent had suspected it.

Yes, Talent and Depp’s Chick Purchase have a darts rivalry and up until very recently Chick’s had Talent under his thumb for debts. Yes, that would make six kissing Purchase in front of Talent more of a betrayal. However, sometimes we sacrifice things on the altar of “not depicting a woman making out with her real-life abuser for the purposes of drama.” Instead, the film sets out its front and center and lets the camera paw at Heard as Depp does the same. The scene may have played as ill-conceived in the first place — although Heard is wonderfully mean – but knowing the reality of the players, it is pretty hideous.

Amber Heard mourns the wasted adaptation that is LONDON FIELDS. (Courtesy of GVN Releasing)

That’s a Wrap!

Fans of the book will hate this movie.

Film aficionados will hate this movie.

Fans of treating women with dignity will hate this movie.

Hell, even the director has come out and stated that people are right to hate this movie.

I watched it. You don’t have to. So spare yourself, won’t you?

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