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Review: Focus

Ros Hull

An accomplished con man takes an amateur con artist, under his wing. But they become romantically involved, and being a liar and a cheater for a living, he realises that deception and love are things that don’t go together. They split, only to see each other three years later… And things get messy.” imdb

I was going to see the second installment of everybody’s favourite exotic retirement home this week. Then my friend and fellow writer Heather Wallace did. Not good. So not good that Heather sent me this appraisal:

The Second Best Marigold Hotel

The name says it all. Even before I saw the film I’d been reading the title as The Second-Best Marigold Hotel. And after I sat through more than two hours of some of Britain’s best actors simpering and sighing across the screen, I realised even second-best was rating it too high. A follow up to the charming story of a group of retired ex-pats rekindling their joy of life in an Indian retirement home, this is a waste of some great acting talent. Judie Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Richard Gere, Celia Imrie and Tamsin Greig are all wasted in paper flat characters. I’m all for growing old disgracefully, so my suggestion is take your mum to a vodka bar and buy her some shots rather than checking her into this second-rate facility. 

Oh dear. Pass me a dirty martini and the session times so I can pick something else!

So I saw, and enjoyed, Focus.

Part caper movie and part romcom there is a lot to like. Not least the chance to see Will Smith back on form as a world-weary con artist – his drawl is a fine mix of exhaustion, concealing mask and cynicism. It’s a good sound for him. And what a good look – he can certainly wear a suit, mess with your head and break your heart in just one scene. Jada Pinkett-Smith is a lucky woman.

Mind you, Margot Robbie is his equal. This gorgeous Aussie girl (a Queenslander, naturally) is definitely beginning to make her mark in Tinseltown. With her fearless performance in The Wolf of Wall Street and her killer dame with a soft heart in this film – back off world, Margot’s moving in.

The twists and double twists are fun in the style of The Sting or George’s Oceans movies but without the conviction and focus (hur, hur) of the two leads this would have been pretty lightweight.

The cars, the dresses, the sleight-of-hand pickpocketing (for which they had an expert coach) are all good fun but it is the shots of Will’s face as his heart breaks or when he fails in a gamble that lift this film. The camera work and dissolves in these scenes are quite good too (apparently courtesy of some new Apple Final Cut Pro x thing…if you are interested in that).

Kristen Stewart was slated to play Margot Robbie’s part and that would have been just awful. Smith’s soulful character needed the lift that a girl who is both open and full of sass and that is what Margot delivers.

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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