Rag Tale (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/10/2005

One out of Five stars
Running time: 123 mins

An intriguing set-up and a strong cast are completely squandered by a ludicrous plot and some truly atrocious camera work that renders the film literally unwatchable.

The Background
The success of TV’s State of Play has shown that there’s a definite audience for dramas which are set in the fast-paced atmosphere of a newspaper newsroom. Unfortunately, director Mary McGuckian’s largely improvised drama squanders both its great set-up (political wrangling in the offices of a tabloid newspaper) and a strong, capable cast, by saddling them with an increasingly ludicrous plot and some of the worst camera work ever seen on film.

The Story
The film is set in the offices of London tabloid The Rag, where the mantra is Who can we get this week?. Rupert Graves stars as unscrupulous Eddy Taylor, who is having an affair with M.J. (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the wife of the paper’s powerful chairman, Richard Morton (Malcolm McDowell). When the affair is revealed, Eddy suddenly finds his career on the line as M.J. manipulates Morton into giving her Eddy’s job. Eddy marshals his team to dig up some dirt on Morton as a counter-measure, but with time running out, they resort to faking some instead. However, things take a dramatic turn when the supposedly faked story turns out to contain more than a hint of truth.

The Good
The cast do a fine job, for the most part. It’s good to see Rupert Graves in a lead role again. There’s also strong, caustic support from stalwart British actors such as Simon Callow, John Sessions and Bill Paterson.

McDowell is pretty good as Morton and Jennifer Jason Leigh is as good as she always is, though it’s difficult to see exactly what attracted her to the part in the first place. The best thing in the film, however, is Lucy Davis (Dawn from The Office), who steals the movie with an amusing performance as a nosy secretary.

The Bad
It’s impossible to discuss Rag Tale without giving the camerawork the kicking it deserves. McGuckian has chosen to film every scene using rapid-fire editing and a perpetually fast-moving handheld camera that constantly spins clockwise, anti-clockwise and back again. Whilst this is fine for conveying the initial hectic newsroom atmosphere, the style continues even through supposedly quiet scenes set in bedrooms and restaurants. The result is to render the film literally unwatchable, particularly to anyone who suffers from motion sickness. It also has the unwelcome effect of distancing the audience from the characters.

The script throws up the occasional good line, but the increasingly ludicrous plot provides yet more evidence that you should never allow actors to improvise – at least, not unless your name is Mike Leigh and you have a firm storyline in place beforehand. Sadly, Rag Tale takes a massive dive into pretentious, overblown nonsense and the climax, rather than being shocking, is both unbelievable and actually rather laughable.

The Conclusion
In short, though the cast provide the odd decent moment, it’s impossible to recommend Rag Tale because the camerawork is so unwatchable, making this one of the worst films of the year. Avoid like you’ve never avoided anything before.

Rag Tale has been reviewed by 2 users
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Content updated: 19/10/2017 11:50

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