Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Movie Review: Come to Daddy

Come to Daddy *** / *****
Directed by: Ant Timpson.
Written by: Toby Harvard and Ant Timpson.
Starring: Elijah Wood (Norval Greenwood), Stephen McHattie (Gordon), Garfield Wilson (Ronald Plum), Madeleine Sami (Gladys), Martin Donovan (Brian), Michael Smiley (Jethro), Simon Chin (Dandy), Ona Grauer (Precious), Ryan Beil (Danny), Oliver Wilson (Young Norval).  
There is a skill involved in being an actor at the center of a film as ridiculous as Come to Daddy and making it all work – a skill that Elijah Wood has honed in the years since The Lord of the Rings ended, and Hollywood clearly had no idea what to do with him. Wood has spent much of that time making low budget horror films – so good, so not so much – but he’s clearly found a way to make even the strangest of films seem plausible – a skill many don’t have. It’s key to Come to Daddy, because this is a ridiculous film in many ways, it’s so much fun in part because Wood plays it so straight.
In the film, Wood plays Norval Greenwood, a young man who grew up in Beverley Hills, the child of an eccentric mother, and an absent father that he doesn’t even remember. Now, the old man is getting on in years, and has sent Norval a letter, telling him to come to his remote home in the middle of the woods, so the two can get to know each and bond finally. And yet, when Norval arrives, he finds his father (Stephen McHattie) doesn’t really seem to care that he’s there – doesn’t seem to remember he invited him, and spends all of his time mocking and belittling Norval – sometimes with some good reason, but that doesn’t make him an less of an asshole.
I won’t say any more about the plot, because Come to Daddy is able to twist and turn itself into some very unexpected places as it moves along, pulling off these twists. For the first half of the film, it is essentially a two hander between Wood and McHattie – and it’s a wonderful one at that. McHattie is one of those character actors I always take delight in seeing – he doesn’t often get roles this good, but he relishes them when he gets them. He delights in tormenting Norval – the way he prods him, the way he listens to his son talking about his drinking problem, before making a big show of drinking himself, the way he doesn’t care about Wood’s fancy phone, etc. McHattie is having a blast – and it’s fun to see him.
The film grows more and more far-fetched in the second half – delightedly so however, as it’s the type of film where one thing leads to another to another to another, all increasingly strange and unbelievable, but just one after another. The film is a dark comedy and a thriller, and a bloody horror movie, and other things as well. It is the directorial debut of Ant Timpson, and I suppose he deserved credit for keeping the whole thing on the tracks, when it so easily could have flown off at any point.
Wood deserves credit too though. He plays a character who isn’t entirely sympathetic – he is a liar and rather weak willed, and is 35, and hasn’t done anything with his privilege. And yet, you like him anyway – you cheer for him anyway, if for no other reason than everyone else is way worse. It’s a fine performance by Wood – and it keeps the whole thing humming along nicely.

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