November 6, 2007


The Case for Gordon Brown (BRENDAN BERNHARD, November 6, 2007, NY Sun)

"The Deal," a film written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Frears (the writer and director, respectively, of "The Queen"), is a swift, incisive study into the notoriously fraught relationship between Britain's former prime minister, Tony Blair, and its current prime minister, Gordon Brown. It begins when the two met as young MPs in 1983, and leads up to the moment when Mr. Blair took over the Labour Party in 1994. (He became prime minister in 1997.)

Directed by Mr. Frears with his customary narrative economy and verve, "The Deal," which airs Thursday night on HBO, stretches over 90 minutes in length, though there is enough material to furnish a three-season series. Certainly, this approach to the topic has its merits — "Quick in, quick out," as Nietzsche recommended — but it also comes at the cost of simplification, bordering on caricature. Briefly put, the moral of the film is: Brown good, Blair bad. [...]

[N]o matter how hard Messrs. Morgan and Frears work to make us dislike Mr. Blair, his rise to power never seems anything less than inevitable. In that sense, "The Deal" is both intelligent and honest. It is also clear that though the screenwriter prefers Mr. Brown, it is Mr. Blair who fascinates him. He is one of those born politicians who, in Shakespeare's words, are "lords and owners of their faces" ("I always wanted to be an actor," Mr. Blair admits at one point), and who, while "moving others, are themselves as stone." Unlike Mr. Brown, who is forever buried in paperwork, Mr. Blair flits from surface to surface, a creature of mirrors and cameras and screens, a man who, in the memorable words of Mr. Blair's famed spinmeister, Peter Mandelson (Paul Rhys), has mastered "the ugly art of keeping friends."

The film hints that despite being a fake Scot and a fake Englishman, Mr. Blair might just be a real American. In one amusing scene, he telephones Messrs. Brown and Mandelson from his house to call for an urgent strategy meeting, then leans back on his sofa and softly strums an electric guitar as if he were in a college dorm room. Earlier, when Mr. Brown admits that he finds it difficult to talk about his personal life, Mr. Blair introduces him to the American use of the verb "share," as in sharing one's feelings. But does he have any? Not here he doesn't. Nor does he have any core convictions or personality except for his belief that Labour must change. "Gordon … is just Gordon," he says in a subtle indictment of his friend's limitations. But Tony is … whoever you want or need him to be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 6, 2007 12:22 PM


Posted by: Billy Joe bob at December 2, 2007 1:19 PM