Starring Role: Not Another Happy Ending

not another happy ending a1Not Another Happy Ending is one of the more recent films to have been shot and set in Glasgow, premiering at 2013’s Edinburgh International Film Festival and going on general release later that year. It is a romantic comedy that sees a French publisher set out to make his star writer’s life a misery when he realises that she works best when despondent, and that a recent run of happiness in her life is the cause of a case of writer’s block that is preventing her from laying the next golden egg.

not another happy endingKaren Gillan leads the cast as the aforementioned writer, Jane, with Paris-born Stanley Weber as publisher Tom. The production attracted much attention for being Gillan’s first major film role since taking the high profile part of  “companion” Amy Pond in Doctor Who, and pleasingly it’s a good start for a movie career that is continuing to gain momentum with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy being the next release due to carry her name in its credits. She delivers a good, solid performance and most importantly a likeable character. Weber’s Tom is a good character too – an easily riled, lovelorn Frenchman is something different for a Glasgow-set feature.

not another happy ending 1aThe strong cast also features Iain De Caestecker, Kate Dickie, Freya Mavor, Gary Lewis and Henry Ian Cusick. Lewis – as Jane’s father, Benny –  gives a more subtle performance than he has done in a number of things I’ve seen him in recently, and Cusick is very convincing as a smarmy and obnoxious screenwriter. The prominence of Freya Mavor’s billing on the film is somewhat surprising in relation to the fairly limited amount of time she has on screen compared to Dickie, Lewis and Cusick.

not another happy ending 2I have a couple of minor criticisms for what I believe is an otherwise very decent film. I felt that the character of Roddy (Tom’s closest friend, played by Iain De Caestecker) was perhaps a bit too cartoonish, even for the quirky environment that the rest of the film paints. And the relationship between Jane and Willie (Henry Ian Cusick) does not seem believable in my opinion.

not another happy ending 3Let’s get back to the positives though, and a massive green tick for the way in which Glasgow is used in Not Another Happy Ending. There are frequent montages of city views – look out for plenty of landmarks and businesses, including: the Gallery of Modern Art; Jane and Tom in Delizique on Hyndland Street; Graphical House and the Mr Ben retro clothing store on King Street; Hutchesons’ Hall; the Barrowlands; the Necropolis; the Kingston Bridge; Jane running through the rain past the Co-Operative Building on Morrison Street; Jane and Tom standing with Glasgow Cathedral in the background… Given the subject matter there are also a number of book shop appearances – including the real life Voltaire and Rousseau and Waterstones stores, and the former Borders (now Zizzi’s restaurant) building on Royal Exchange Square bearing a “Mocha Books” sign. And a special mention for original locations goes to the use of the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust in Bridgeton, where some of the city’s famous old green and orange buses provide the backdrop for a book launch scene.

not another happy ending 4But the love letter to Glasgow goes beyond simply showing off the city’s architecture and green spaces. There are nice little nods throughout, from the touristy Glasgow mug on Tom’s desk to Benny’s City of Culture T-Shirt and a soundtrack that includes the likes of Huevo & The Giant and Twin Atlantic.

Stunt Double: Filth

A few days ago I posted here about the picture postcard moments of Sunshine on LeithFilth – also released in 2013 – turns that image of Edinburgh on its head, all thanks to the mind of Irvine Welsh – from whose book the movie was adapted.

But once again “Edinburgh” isn’t all that it seems, as Glasgow stood in for the capital in filming of a number of scenes. We will come to the Glasgow locations in a moment, but what of the film itself?

The story follows James McAvoy’s Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson in the run up to Christmas – he’s vying for a promotion, has to handle the case of a murdered Japanese student… and appears to have lost the plot. For anyone, like me, who hadn’t read the book the trailers suggested an extra sweary tale of a bent cop but this is far more than that. There are persistent moments of madness – most of them coming from DS Robertson – throughout. Not so much of the rock and roll, but plenty of sex and drugs.

I think the main talking point of Filth however has to be the cast. Had the Better Together politicians been able to get this lot on board for its campaign, then the outcome of September’s independence referendum may well have been a foregone conclusion – for it is a “Best of British” ensemble that works incredibly well together. McAvoy is joined by many of Scotland’s finest, including Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliott, Shirley Henderson, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Jonathan Watson and Jordan Young. Yet on top of that list there is still room for some of the most respected English names in acting today – Jamie Bell (now no stranger to shooting in Glasgow), Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Eddie Marsan and Imogen Poots. Oh… and there’s an American for good measure too – David Soul in one brief and bizarre sequence.

Many of the above play distinctly against type – McAvoy in particular excels as the twisted mess that is Robertson. Gary Lewis is oafish and Iain De Caestecker is a million miles from his studious characters in Young James Herriot and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And I may be alone in this, but usually I find Jim Broadbent’s performances a bit “samey” – it’s amazing what putting on an Australian accent can do though.

So what about Glasgow’s role in Filth?

Among the locations we see are Park Circus, where Robertson’s house is located, and James Watt Street – where he is taken into the building that houses GTW Storage. The flat in which De Caestecker’s character Ocky stays is portrayed on the outside by a large Cardonald block of flats, but on the inside by the atrium of Sauchiehall Street’s Beresford building.

Movie Glaswegians: Laura Fraser

Now living in New York with her husband and daughter, Glasgow-born Laura Fraser continues to enjoy a successful acting career on both sides of the Atlantic, and on small and big screen.

Born in Glasgow on 24th July 1976, Fraser attended Hillhead High School and later the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in the city. Her first recorded screen acting role was in the 1995 short Good Day for the Bad Guys, opposite Gary Lewis and Peter Mullan. In 1996 she made her first feature film appearance in Small Faces and in the same year she appeared as a regular in London-set television mini series Neverwhere and as a one-off character in the long-running BBC drama Casualty.

On television these roles have been followed by key parts in numerous series, including two set in Glasgow – Single Father and Lip Service. But arguably her most prominent television role to date has been that of Lydia Rodarte-Quayle – a central player in the fifth and sixth seasons of the immensely popular American drama Breaking Bad.

Laura Fraser’s movie credits are as varied in style as her television credits – since Small Faces other films to feature her have included The Man in the Iron MaskKevin & Perry Go LargeA Knight’s Tale and Vanilla Sky. She has also acted in Scottish features The MatchThe Flying Scotsman and Nina’s Heavenly Delights.

Her proven ability to convincingly play both British and American characters, plus the current Breaking Bad factor – which has propelled lead actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul into high demand – could spell exciting times ahead for this Glaswegian actress.

Starring Role: Postmortem

postmortempostmortem 2This 1998 movie evokes bittersweet feelings in Glasgow on Film. Back in summer 1997 when it was being filmed, it was the first Glasgow-shot movie that GoF really sat up and took interest in – a curiosity that has grown into the passion for the subject that exists today. Any sentimentality though is tempered by the fact that Postmortem is, well, pretty terrible.

In summer 1997 the internet was limited in terms of both availability and content so there did not appear to be the rumours or rumblings of anything coming Glasgow’s way, and by the time GoF had been alerted to the production nothing had been noticed in the newspapers either. A relative had been in the city centre and noticed a lot of crowds and commotion on Gordon Street – when she asked one of the event security people what was going on he replied that Charlie Sheen was making a film. To the naive 15 year old that was GoF this was a big thing – in the couple of years preceding there had been a lot of hype with the shooting of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting in Glasgow, and reports of Mel Gibson immersing himself in the city to prepare for Braveheart, but this appeared to represent the first time that a Hollywood name had come to Glasgow to make a film set in Glasgow (GoF had not been aware of Death Watch, with Harvey Keitel, at that point). The naivety also meant that GoF gave no consideration to the film being a low budget, straight to video release – it always seemed as if movies just came out with the same fanfare as the last one, so surely this would get its glittering premiere and be screened in multiplexes across the globe, showcasing Glasgow as it did so? No, it was straight to video and it could be suggested that Sheen’s billing as “Charles Sheen” was an attempt by his management to deflect attention from his part in the production.

So what is Postmortem about? Sheen plays James McGregor, an American cop turned author who has relocated to Scotland for peace after wrapping up a child serial killer case in the USA. When a young woman’s naked corpse turns up in his garden he is immediately arrested as the suspect, however once his name is cleared the Glasgow police turn to McGregor for help as it now appears that they have a serial killer on their hands as more women are found in a similar condition around the city. The body count grows, but as McGregor and the native detectives figure out the pattern – the killer, the son of a funeral director, has been meeting the women at funerals of their relatives and teases McGregor by faxing the obituaries of the deceased relatives to him ahead of the bodies turning up – the team manage to save a couple of lives before a confrontation at the Necropolis where the murderer kills himself.

You can tell that there is something wrong with this film before you even take the DVD out of the case – the description on the back states that McGregor “flees to a small, peaceful Scottish town…” – a ridiculous description of Glasgow that neither its champions or its critics would use, and not even justified by its portrayal within the film with one character using the phrase “…our great city of Glasgow”. Criticising the descriptor may be nit picking, but there are so many negatives about the film itself. In terms of acting, English actor Michael Halsey and Sarajevo-born Ivana Milicevic play the lead detective roles – Halsey’s accent is pretty poor but salvaged somewhat by a semi-convincing gruffness, however Milicevic’s effort is dire – one could say it sounds Irish but that would almost be a compliment. Halsey fluffs his lines at one point and the director sees fit to leave this in. Then there is the awkward moment of a victim’s father, a well spoken Scottish man telling McGregor “…you would do anything, any goddamned thing…”. There are plot holes galore: McGregor seems to live practically in the Highlands yet it’s a city centre squad that are dispatched to his house to deal with the first murder; an officer “extra” seen aiding McGregor in one scene is restraining him from apprehending a suspect less than a minute later; and a red herring scene in which one of the killer’s targets is met by an actual friend of hers is astoundingly bad.

Last points in the postmortmem of Postmortem are about the general production values. There’s a bit where Halsey’s Detective Inspector Balantine is stabbed and killed – as he drops, rather than the usual theatrical blood, what can only be described as a kind of broth spills from his mouth. And the whole movie looks like it has been filmed on someone’s mobile phone.

Scottish actors Stephen McCole and Gary Lewis make up the rest of the top billed cast.