The Face of an Angel

 

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Michael Winterbottom surveys his navel through the prism of the Meredith Kercher murder trial.

 

The Face of an Angel

Genevieve Gaunt is not Amanda Knox (apparently)

  

Michael Winterbottom returns to many of his favourite preoccupations in this bizarrely self-indulgent affair. Ostensibly a ‘fictionalised’ look at the events and people surrounding the Meredith Kercher murder trial, The Face of an Angel reunites Winterbottom with Italy, journalists on the front line and the insular, masturbatory format of the meta-movie. So, The Face of an Angel is less about Amanda Knox than it is Michael Winterbottom.

 

A London-based filmmaker (Daniel Brühl) is going through a mid-life crisis while attempting to embark on a “fictionalised” movie based around a famous murder trial in Italy. His name is Thomas, but for all intents and purposes… More worrying than Thomas’s mental state and rejection by Hollywood is his apparent obsession with his nine-year-old daughter and an English girl he picks up in a bar in Siena. He refers to the latter as a “teenager,” but she – Melanie (the supermodel Cara Delevingne) – corrects him, stating that she is a grown-up 21. Even so, what with Delevingne’s lanky, rangy figure, blonde hair and dark eyebrows – not to mention the fact that, in real life, her sister is also a successful model – does bring to mind Mariel Hemingway in Woody Allen’s Manhattan. At the time, Hemingway played the 17-year-old girlfriend of a 42-year-old comedy-writer who was played by Woody himself. It all gets way too incestuous – and we know what happened to Woody Allen. More tragically, Mariel’s sister – a successful model – died of a barbiturate overdose.

 

These parallels aside, The Face of an Angel is not that interesting a film. As a cinematic topic, the media circus has been done to death and the real story behind the Amanda Knox trial is given scant analysis. There are other characters besides Thomas and Melanie but they are largely stereotypes, while the presence of Kate Beckinsale as an American journalist is something of a mystery. Perhaps to emphasize Winterbottom’s own mid-life crisis, the film is littered with preternaturally beautiful women – not least Sai Bennett as the murder victim. However, it is Delevingne’s engaging, unaffected turn as Melanie that seems to be the most genuine element of a rather phoney exercise.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Daniel Brühl, Kate Beckinsale, Valerio Mastandrea, Cara Delevingne, Ava Acres, Genevieve Gaunt, Sai Bennett, Sara Stewart, Sophie Rundle, Alistair Petrie, Lucy Cohu.

 

Dir Michael Winterbottom, Pro Melissa Parmenter, Screenplay Paul Viragh, Ph Hubert Taczanowski, Pro Des Carly Reddin, Ed Marc Richardson, Music Harry Escott, Costumes Daniela Ciancio.

 

BBC Films/Cattleya/Multitrade/Revolution Films/Vedette Finance/Ypsilon Films-Soda Pictures.

101 mins. UK/Italy/Spain/USA. 2014. Rel: 27 March 2015. Cert. 15.