Boogie Woogie

Boogie Woogie


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Put succinctly, Boogie Woogie is a mess, less the free-form, jazzy ensemble satire on the art world it aspires to be than an over-elaborate and under-funny undertaking by high quality actors who should know better.

The plot is striving for effortless Altman but comes across as complicated in a cumbersome rather than intriguing way. There are several stories - some considerably more engaging than others - spinning out from the central tale about the Boogie Woogie of the title. It is a painting, a Mondrian 'first', owned by husband and wife Christopher Lee (equipped with eastern European accent for no discernible reason) and Joanna Lumley. They're skint, being down to their last butler (Simon McBurney) but while she wants to sell, he's not interested.

Copy picture

That isn't stopping art wheeler dealer Art Spindle (Danny Huston) from trying to buy it, however. Thanks to machinations involving the fact that his gallery director (Heather Graham) is shagging one of his best clients, Bob (Stellan SkarsgÄrd), in order to get a gallery of her very own, Art is, unknowingly, competing for the painting with him. This, though describing the crux of the narrative, seems to be of very little importance to writer Danny Moynihan (adapting his own novel and transporting the action from the States to London) and director Duncan Ward, who are far more interested in who is sleeping with who.

Who would have thought that the art world, awash with huge amounts of money, a few power brokers and a lot of bright young things would also be a hotbed of drugs and sex? This - and that split-your-sides name Art Spindle - is just about as incisive as the satire gets, yet we're only around a tenth of the way into the plot.

Other characters include Gillian Anderson - probably the next best thing in the film after Huston - as the spoilt, bored wife of Bob, Amanda Seyfried as a desk clerk who has a completely unnecessary plot of her own and Alan Cumming in role which is doubtless intended to be an emotional 'touchstone' but which is left on the sidelines for so long it makes him hard to connect with. This leads to Cumming over-compensating to such an extent that he loses what limited sympathy the character had in a flurry of histrionics. Jamie Winstone, meanwhile, is good as a lesbian, Tracey Emin-inflected performance artist but her character gets far too much screen time and badly unbalances the story.

For all the input from Damien Hirst - who is credited with being the art curator - there is not a lot of artistry on show. Little thought is given to framing and editing, meaning it could easily have been a TV drama rather than a feature film and the incessant 'lounge' jazz scoring, particularly in the early scenes, is extremely irritating.

There are some occasional funny moments, most of which involve Anderson and Huston, but the end result is more like a kid's splatter painting than a serious work of art.

Reviewed on: 14 Apr 2010
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Art world satire.
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