'Flashbacks of a Fool' (2008) DVD Review
February 18, 2009 § 1 Comment
Flashbacks of a Fool tells the story of Joe Scott (Daniel Craig), a soon to be washed-up Hollywood actor, who’s hedonistic lifestyle of excessive induldgence has gotten the better of him. After a hard nights binge of sex and drugs, Scott wakes up to receive a phone call from his mother, telling him that his childhood friend, ‘Boots’ (Max Deacon), has died, and that he is invited to the funeral. Scott then attends a meeting where he is told in no uncertain terms by his agent that his career is over. Distraught – and loaded on alcohol – Scott unwisely decides to take a dip in the ocean, nearly killing himself in the process. It is at this point that we go back to a time in Scott’s past and his teenage years spent in England. It is here we discover what has led him to his current condition of decedence, and more importantly, why.
I find it difficult to be hard on Flashbacks of a fool. There are so many things I really like about it. For a start, I love Daniel Craig. Even his small role as the aging movie star is given added credence from his presence. He just has it – a totally magnetic screen presence.
I also really love the cinematography in the film. From the cold and vacant air of Scott’s house in Hollywood, to the warm seaside glow of the West Country village Scott grows up in, everything is so beautifully lighted and shot. The film also riffs a lot on the nostalgia for the past – namely, the teenage years in which we grow up, where the adult world starts to open up to us, and where we start to develop sexually. Harry Eden does a fairly good job playing the young Joe Scott, representing that kind of sexual naivity very well, while also looking like he could be a young Daniel Craig. In fact, all of the actors here do a good job in their respective roles.
The issue with this film is that it is at once too short but also too long. We are given an idea of how good a friend Boots and Scott are to eachother, but this aspect of the film feels pretty weak. We are shown scenes of Boots and Scott making a blood pact as small children; we see them as adolescents masturbating together while hiding in a ride at the local fun fair. But all we really see are just instances of their friendship, which are supposed to prove to us, the audience, that they’re life-long blood brothers. Their relationship on-screen lacks substance, and, as a result, the film loses some of the emotional impact it would otherwise have. We are supposed to believe that this is the relationship the film hinges upon, but there is so little screen time given to it. This is considering that the film wants us to believe just how close these friends were – so close in fact, that Scott even considers coming back home to be at the funeral, and at the risk of facing the demons of his past. It’s an aspect of the story which is certainly underdeveloped.
But at the same time the film feels too long. The film is quite slowly paced and the fact is that there isn’t much going on in Scott’s flashbacks. He has an affair with a older, married woman; he also at the same time starts to go out with a girl his own age. Then, something terrible happens, and he runs away. We don’t see anything of what happens after he runs away; we don’t see how he makes it as a film star. All we see is him having a traumatic childhood experience, running away and – poof – suddenly he’s a star in Hollywood, snorting cocaine off the arse of some girl in his luxery penthouse by the sea. Considering how much time is spent in his flashbacks, you just expect something more. Flashbacks of a Fool almost feels like a novel which has been trimmed in all the wrong places, in order to try and fit it from page to the screen.
Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the film. The idea of innocence lost is a classic theme, and I am always touched by it. There is a wonderfully poignant scene in which Scott and the girl he is trying to court – Ruth (played by Felicity Jones) – sing Roxy Music’s If There is Something in her parent’s living room while they’re away. That scene so perfectly captures the excitement and magic of being that age again, of being excited by music and ideas, while also being infused with a burgeoning sexual energy.
In fact the scene is so powerful, that the director repeats parts of it towards the end of the film. You can’t help feeling that you’re being taken in by something here, that he is using some kind of cheap trick to conjour up a personal sense of nostalgia, using the characters on screen. But perhaps it’s also because the director recognises that the essence of the scene is the movie, and that really what the film is trying to express is simultaneously the sense of wonderment of that time, but also a sense of what was lost as we grow older.
To that end I believe he is successful.