Mr. Turner

Directed By: Mike Leigh

Starring: Timothy Spall, Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, Paul Jesson, Lesley Manville, and Martin Savage

Mr. Turner is my last stop on the Christmas box office train, and I am actually thankful that I'm at the end of this long ride.  This holiday season, art and painting have been a noticeable theme at the forefront of the independent marketplace.  In addition to Mr. Turner, we also have Tim Burton's Big Eyes on painter Margaret Keane.  While I'm sure there are some art aficionados out there elated to see movies like these on the big screen, I'm not one of them.  As it stands, Mr. Turner is just another mediocre entry in a series of middling films this Christmas season.

The movie chronicles the later portion of British painter Joseph Mallord William Turner's (Timothy Spall) life.  The film explores his close relationship with his father William Turner (Paul Jesson) and the toll his father's death takes on him.  It explores his on-again, off-again sexual relationship with housekeeper Hannah Danby (Dorothy Atkinson).  It explores his loving relationship with his mistress and landlady Sophia Booth (Marion Bailey) and the years he spent with her in secret in Chelsea by the sea.  Moreover, the film explores the revolutionary change in his artistry during this late period in his life.

I'll admit that Mr. Turner has some of the most gorgeous shots caught on camera this year with its golden cinematography.  For a while, Timothy Spall's use of grunts over meaningful communication proves humorous.  At times, I'm even engaged in the story.  Clocking in at two and a half hours, however, this doesn't hold.  Gorgeous shots and grunts don't make a movie of this length, and parts of Turner's tale are torturously boring.  In particular, the opening act and its focus on Turner's close relationship with his father serve as a potent sedative ready to knock moviegoers out.  All in all, Mr. Turner just doesn't get the job done.

The film has a decent actor in the lead at least.  When not giving an unending variety of grunts that are for the most part well timed, Timothy Spall turns in a decent performance as J. M. W. Turner.  A private, stolid figure who rarely shows his emotions, Spall gives a rather nuanced performance in which brief glimpses of pleasure, regret, and pain mean quite a bit.  It's a nice opportunity for the British actor to shine in this period piece.

Regardless of Spall's performance, Mr. Turner gets a 0.09% rating.  The film just doesn't have the consistency over the course of its 150 minute runtime to justify a higher rating.  Have a couple of rum and cokes with this one.