Review of A Merry War

A Merry War (1997)
It's only okay, but then the book is no masterpiece
29 August 2008
I have no idea why the US and New Zealand versions of this movie were retitled 'A Merry War' - it's not set during wartime, and it's not especially merry. George Orwell's original novel is far from the greatest work of that great writer, but it's a sardonic and gritty look at bohemian poverty. The movie is much the same. Richard E. Grant does a fine job as the chronically self-defeating anti-hero, a character who more or less defines the phrase "his own worst enemy" - Gordon Comstock is one of those characters who basically needs a good smack in the mouth, but he never actually gets one. Helena Bonham-Carter does some quietly expert sweeping-up as Rosemary, Gordon's girlfriend, one of Orwell's less boring female characters. Julian Wadham is fine as Gordon's affluent editor friend Ravelston. The film never really gets to the bottom of Gordon's puritanical hatred of money and success, but it's not screenwriter Alan Plater's fault, because neither does the book. All in all, an entertaining piece of guardedly feel-good period drama.
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