‘Arthur Newman’: Road movie runs out of gas
A review of “Arthur Newman,” a movie neither romantic nor comic, starring Colin Firth and Emily Blunt.
Seattle Times movie critic
‘Arthur Newman,’ with Colin Firth, Emily Blunt, Anne Heche, Emmet Walsh, David Andrews. Directed by Dante Ariola, from a screenplay by Becky Johnston. 101 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Several theaters.
How can two performers as charming as Colin Firth and Emily Blunt make a movie with so little charm? “Arthur Newman,” a melancholy romantic non-comedy directed by Dante Ariola, isn’t terrible; you can see its good intentions in every frame, and its message about accepting yourself and your past is a warmhearted one. But there’s a leaden feel to the story, rather than a sparkle; it plods along until it’s over, and you wonder why these talented people didn’t just do something else instead.
Firth plays the title role, a man whose real name is Wallace Avery but who, depressed with his life, decides to reinvent himself as Arthur Newman, golf pro. Arthur is a congenial fellow who speaks in clichés and uses words like “gig” with visible quotation marks; Wallace, a man made less confident by divorce and middle age, hides inside of him. En route to his new job in Indiana, he meets Michaela aka Mike (Blunt), a pretty, fragile kleptomaniac who’s fleeing her own messed-up life. For a few days and a few hundred miles, they hang out together, watching other couples and trying on new identities like borrowed coats; they’re not in love, not quite, but each finds something poignant in the other.
This could be a sweet story, and Firth and Blunt find a few moments of connection — and a few occasions to remind us that he’s impossible to dislike on screen, and that she has a way of making even the most mundane dialogue feel fresh and unexpected. But they’re trapped in a dreary movie (even the daylight scenes seem dark); on a road trip, but with nowhere to go.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org