Saturday, February 2, 2013


My good friend Gigi is running two challenges through her blog, Down the Rabbit Hole: Persephone and the Cheshire Cat, the 2013 Golden Ladies and Golden Gentlemen challenges. The rules are somewhat complicated (and available in her blog) but basically, one cumulates points by seeing movies, series or performances which feature one or more of the actors and actresses in a selected list – this year Colin Firth, Ian Mckellen, Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon for the guys and Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carte, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren for the girls – and then writing a review of the work.

This seemed like a nice idea (especially since there are some amazing talents on that list) and a good way to force me to start writing again, after more than a whole year of silence. Besides, honestly, Collin Firth is irresistible and the rest is just icing on the cake.

My first stop – chosen at random from the list, and mostly because it had a strange title – was called Toast, featuring the amazing Helena Bonham Carter.

Director  .................................... S. J. Clarckson
Oscar Kennedy ......................... Young Nigel Slater
Freddie Highmore ................... Nigel Slater
Victoria Hamilton .................... Mrs. Slater
Ken Stott .................................. Mr. Slater
Helena Bonham Carter ........... Mrs. Potter
Matthew McNulty .................... Josh

When I went looking for the film, I discovered a few other appealing things about it. First, Lee Hall - the same person who gave us Billy Elliot - wrote it based on the memoir of the same name by Nigel Slater, and food plays an important part in the plot (I saw Julie and Julia recently, and it seemed fitting to stay on the same note).

Thus motivated, I went ahead and whiled away a few hours of a Saturday afternoon in front of my computer, and came away not exactly blown away, but by no means feeling as if it was a waste of time.

Indeed, the film has some of the same characteristic that made Billy Elliot such an amazing work: it is satirical and funny without demeaning the characters; it has drama and psychological depth without taking itself too seriously; it has conflict and an engaging plot, but doesn’t leave us reeling afterwards.

So far, so good, right? There is one major difference, however, and it is not in Toast’s favour: the main character in Billy Elliot is great – he is strong, and sensitive, and talented and despite all the hardships, he still loves and is loved by his family. Nigel Slater, in Toast, comes across as an annoying, spoilt, self-centred little twerp, who is incapable of taking other people’s feelings into consideration before doing anything. Very different levels of empathy towards the main character there, which have an impact on how touched the viewer is by the film.

All in all, Toast is a nice, light-hearted movie, with some very good acting (the boy who plays Nigel in the first part is particularly good, and Helena Bonham Carter is, as always, flawless even in the role of a very unsavoury character).

My point tally: 1 actress + 1 film = 2 points in the Golden Ladies Challenge.

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