This Kelly is motivated by an oedipal complex and wears dresses to distract his opponents; The Babadook’s Essie Davis is equal parts fearsome and magnetic as his enterprising sex worker mother. More enjoyable still are the film’s corrupt policemen; the louche, stockinged, pipe-smoking Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult) and virile cartoon villain Sergeant O’Neil (Charlie Hunnam).
Ruffalo optioned the rights to Nathaniel Rich’s original article and has an executive producer credit on the film; clearly, he has a stake in the material. The actor is excellent as reluctant hero Bilott, muting his natural charisma to create a character who is both taciturn and generous, determined but socially ill at ease.
Blessed with not one but two resourceful heroines, and painted with a glittering digital palette which conjures a spectacular backdrop for the romping action (Arendelle and its environs are part Norway, part Narnia), this is terrifically enjoyable – romantic, subversive, engaging and enthralling.
A pacy screenplay, co-written by director Francis Annan and adapted from a book by Jenkin, rarely flags, but it’s the nervy camera, hugging the characters at hip height, the better to scrutinise each locked barrier to freedom, that most successfully builds the tension.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (the French title uses the less Jamesian “jeune fille”) seamlessly intertwines themes of love and politics, representation and reality. At times it plays like a breathless romance, trembling with passionate anticipation. Elsewhere, it seems closer to a sociopolitical treatise, what Sciamma has called “a manifesto about the female gaze”.
Director Miguel Arteta, who brought a bracingly transgressive tartness to indie comedies Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl, delivers sloppily paced hack work here, while Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne, two fine comic actresses, are shackled to a screenplay so crassly tone-deaf, it makes you want to chisel off your own ears.