I can’t say I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter films. Having never read the books, it’s hard for me to follow what’s happening or why… much like the average biopic, they seem to cram and compress too many significant people and incidents into too short a span of time. The films do have a couple of things working in their favour though. Firstly, they always look fantastic… from the costumes to the set design to the SFX, they always make for good eye-candy. And secondly, they stuff their casts with more thespy goodness than the relatively small cameo scenes really seem to require… and that is what keeps drawing me back. Last week I even managed to sit through the Order of the Phoenix, because I knew Helena Bonham Carter was in it somewhere… true, I had to wait about two hours before she made a proper appearance, but it was worth it. I don’t know the first thing about ‘Bellatrix Lestrange’, beyond the fact that she’s barking mad and has an itchy wand-finger… I just love watching HBC gothed up to the gills, and cackling like crazy! Apparently she comes back in the sequels, so I may very well have to check them out at some point too…
HBC’s glorious career kicked off back in 1979, when she won a national writing contest and cunningly used the money to pay for her entry into the actors directory Spotlight. She then made her professional acting début at the age of 16, in a television commercial. Despite being closely associated with costume dramas and corsets in most people’s minds, one of her earliest gigs was playing a minor recurring character on Miami Vice. When I first read that on Wikipedia, I assumed it was a joke… but there are plenty of YouTube clips to bear it out, so if it is a hoax, it is a very elaborate one, and therefore deserves to be perpetuated! The first time I remember seeing her on screen was when ‘Eddy’ had a dream about her in an episode of Absolutely Fabulous… but I’m not sure when I actually began to admire her. If I had to guess, I would say it was probably her turn as ‘Marla’ in Fight Club that sealed it. That film hit me like a ton of bricks, and remains one of my favourites to this day… even after all the parodies, and the fact that it inspired a friend of mine to repeatedly challenge us to fight him whenever he got drunk, so that we could “learn what we were made of”. Oy! What a lot of people seem to miss about FG is that, at its heart, it’s a romantic comedy… one with a pitch black sense of humour, where the flighty object of the hero’s affection is seriously screwed up and semi-suicidal, and his rival for her attention is a charismatic sociopath in command of a small army of brainwashed terrorists, yes… but a rom-com, none the less!
I also greatly enjoyed her scenes as ‘Mrs. Lovett’ in Sweeney Todd… although, I found the rest of the film rather a drag. I love the production design, and the songs, and the disdain for London… but the whole sub-plot with Todd’s daughter and the sailor just had me reaching for my fast forward button. I’ve seen a (filmed) stage production of ST since, and had exactly the same problems with that one too, so I know it’s not Tim Burton’s fault. It’s clearly me that’s at fault… I prefer to watch wacky villains baking people into pies, than watch bland young people falling in love. Tch! She’s also a lot of fun to watch as ‘Morgan le Fay’ in Merlin… although once again, I found myself spinning through any scenes that didn’t have her (and/or Miranda Richardson) in them. Away from the more fantastical stuff, she’s very sweet and reliable as Richard E Grant’s long-suffering girlfriend in Keep the Aspidistra Flying… although I strongly object to any film that urges poets to give up their bohemian dreams, and settle down with a safe, square job in advertising. Ick. Obviously I can’t comment on the accuracy of her portrayal of Enid Blyton in the BBC biopic Enid, but I can vouch for how affecting it was! The irony of a beloved children’s author having so little interest in, or respect for, her own children was really quite unsettling.
So, in conclusion… um… she rocks.