Monday, 24 May 2010

Money, BBC Two

Here's a review of Money that I wrote last night for Orange - while knackered after a nice long day of living it up in Brighton. I've never read the book, so I guess other reviewers will have more to say about the strengths and weaknesses of the adaptation. However, I found it very stodgy as a bit of drama. Anyway...

After two of the three dramas in the BBC's 80s season, it was all to play for. Worried About the Boy, an engaging and enlightening look at the musical scene of the early decade, had really hit the high notes, while The Royal Wedding... not so much. 

So, last night we had Money – the first half of a two-part adaptation of Martin Amis's acclaimed novel about the decade's excesses. Nick Frost starred as John Self, a charmless ad director who was flitting between London and New York as he prepared to make his first feature film – also entitled Money.

However, as Self started to put his film together – with the help of slimy producer Fielding Goodney (Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser) – the various bits of his life started to go a bit wonky. His already unhealthy relationship with his girlfriend Selina (Emma Pierson) took a turn for the worse, while his dad fell into debt after turning the family pub into a strip joint.

On top of all this – and trouble from his demanding would-be cast – he'd started to receive a series of menacing calls from someone who seemed to be watching him all the time – and who ended up telling the director that they "wanted his life".

Martin Amis isn't everyone's cup of tea – as either an author or a person – but his writing has a snap, crackle and pop that were totally lacking from this adaptation. Apart from the mysterious phone calls, nothing much happened to build any tension. Instead, Self hopped back and forth across the Atlantic as the story meandered through a series of dull, awkward scenes.

Nick Frost was convincing as John Self, but I got the feeling he wasn't really stretching himself that much. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast weren't given much to work with. It seemed particularly hard going for the actresses; there was an unpleasant tang of misogyny in his messed-up relationship with Selina.

I found myself looking at the clock long before the end, and only persevered to the closing credits because I had to. What could have been a stinging satire ended up as something as lumpen and unappetising as the burgers John Self was scoffing while slobbing around his NYC hotel suite.

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