Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two countries divided by the same films

Here's something I've been thinking about for the past few months. What films out there portray Anglo/American relations? The U.S. and the U.K. get along fairly well okay as political allies, but in films, directors and writers like to examine our cultural divide, often with amusing results. Here, the list I've come up with. Do you have any films to add?

1. The Patriot - I watched this film with my youngest brother when he was 10 or so and remember explaining to him that we once hated the British, going so far to bring him over to the Old North Bridge in nearby Concord to give him a little learnin'. I love The Patriot because there are so very few films that explore this time in American history. Bonus: it's also the late Heath Ledger's breakout film.

2. Bridget Jones's Diary - Much furor arose over an American movie star (Renee Zellweger) playing a beloved British book character. But I think, as do a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic, she killed the part. Score one for the U.S.! Bonus: Hugh Grant finally breaks out of character and plays a sleazebag.

3. Notting Hill - British bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) falls in love with an American movie star (Julia Roberts). Hilarity ensues. Truth be told, I didn't enjoy this film when it came out. Maybe I should give it another try because it ends up on a lot of favorite rom/com lists. I guess I should also add Four Weddings and a Funeral here as Hugh Grant, yet again, ends up with an American, played by the wooden Andi McDowell.

4. A Fish Called Wanda - My husband and I firmly disagree on this film. I think it's one of the funniest movies ever -- brilliant even -- and I watch it whenever I need a good laugh. He had to leave the room at the fish scene and it has caused him to distrust my taste in movies ever since. There's lots of good stuff in this film about what it means to be British and it pokes fun at the stereotypical ugly (stupid) American. Kevin Kline steals the show. Best lines:

Archie: I used to box for Oxford.

Otto: Oh yeah? I used to the kill for the CIA.

5. An American Werewolf in London -- I never get sick of this film and watch it every couple of years. Although it's 30 years old, the makeup and special effects are still awesome. Great shots of the Moors and London's Underground -- you'll never want to travel the Tube at night after seeing this movie. Beyond being gross, it's funny and charming: "A naked American man stole my balloons." And a confession: I used to have a major crush on David Naughton. Anyone remember him in the Dr. Pepper ads of the 70s?

6. The Ghost Writer -- I don't admire Roman Polanski as a man, but he's a fantastic director. The Ghost Writer was one of my favorite films released last year. There was a nearly palpable anti-American feeling to this film -- from the stony, cold exterior shots* to the portrayal of nearly every American character in the story.

*Since Polanski runs the risk of arrest should he set foot on American soil,  scenes that portray Martha's Vineyard and suburban Boston (Newton) were shot in northern Germany.


  1. Great choices. I saw the Ghost Writer on a flight last year and thought it was brilliant.
    The Patriot on the other hand was so anti-British I couldn't believe it. The burning of women and children in a church for example, never happened and allegedly was a story from WW2.

  2. Interesting. I didn't like Notting Hill at all, though 4 Weddings is one of my favorites, with the exception of Andie MacDowell, because of all the other fantastic unsung British actors (not including Hugh Grant since he's pretty much a UK/US crossover) and with loving scenes of my adopted former country. And maybe it's because I read Bridget Jones' Diary while I WAS a Londoner, I found Zellweger's portrayal insufferable. It's all your side-of-the-pond perspective, yes? (Also can't bear when Gwyneth does British, even though technically she does it fine).

  3. I'll admit I like Notting Hill and 4W&aF in my Hugh Grant days. Simon Callow was wonderful in the former. I'll agree with ExpatMum on 'The Patriot' and say that the portrayal of the British was OTT, even for a movie. There were many Loyalists here in the States at that time.

    As for Bridget Jones-I thought RZ's accent seemed authentic but the novel Bridget was not clumsy!

  4. I am glad that someone else doesn't like Notting Hill, although I think that I would like it more if Julia Roberts weren't in it and it was just about the friends - LOVE the friends.

    Have you seen Green Street Hooligans, with Elijah Wood, having been kicked out of Harvard and moving in with his sister in London, getting indoctrinated in the football subculture? It is pretty violent, but a really different take on the American in London.

  5. I used to have a crush on David Naughton too. I remember the Dr. Pepper ads, and I think he was on a tv show (Making It) too. I'm another non-fan of Notting Hill, but I love Four Weddings and a Funeral in spite of Andi MacDowell. Have you seen the movie Fierce Creatures? It has most of the people from A Fish Called Wanda and was funny too.

  6. A Fish Called Wanda was one of the funniest movies of all time (others include Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Raising Arizona). And Ghost was amazing--almost as amazing as the book.

  7. What about 'In the Loop'? Last year, I think?

  8. In the Loop is great. I watch it all of the time.

    "No...it's difficult, difficult, lemon difficult."

    Love it.


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