Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday at the Movies #33 -- Blackpool weekend, pt2

Though I first saw this under the title Viva Blackpool, when broadcast on BBC America, the original title is Blackpool, and Viva Blackpool was the title of the one-off sequel (that I have no desire to see, no matter how much I love the original, but more on that later) so I'll be referring to Blackpool here. Gotta love the title confusion.

Some movies (or in this case, miniseries or serials) belong in the no remakes, no sequels category, and for my money (pun intended) Blackpool is one of them. From the very first previews, I knew this was going to be something different. While characters breaking into elaborate song and dance numbers seemingly at random is a staple of Bollywood (a genre I have yet to explore, outside of Bride and Predjudice,) we don't see it much in western media, so the promise of a musical detective story, with a strong focus on an engaging central character made me sit up and take notice.

David Morrissey playes Ripley Holden, a charismatic, optimistic arcade owner, determined to turn his piece of Blackpool's entertainment community into a Las Vegas style casino. Since Ripley generally gets what he wants by some means or another, there's only one thing standing in his way - money. Well, okay, two. Money and the body of a young man found in the arcade, and signs point to Ripley as the murderer, though Ripley denies it.

Enter Detective Inspector Peter Carlisle, played by Dr. Who's David Tennant, determined to ferret out the root of the crime...and win the heart of Ripley's wife, Natalie. Natalie finds herself torn between duty and desire, and Ripley's life, both personal and professional, goes into freefall.

Besides scheming to secure the funds he needs to keep his business afloat, Ripley struggles to keep his family together. Not only does he fear losing Natalie to the charming but manipulative Carlisle, but he must deal with daughter Shyanne's determination to wed a man of Ripley's own age. Put-upon son Danny may be closer to the crime than anyone thinks, and though he and Ripley have never had the easiest relationship, he finds they are more alike than he ever thought. All of these threads get the song and dance treatment, actors singing along to the original recordings.

Even with all the various threads woven throughout, this is very strongly Ripley's story, and the revelations of how Ripley came from where he started to where we find him, and where he ends up (which ranks in my best movie endings ever) is utterly fascinating to watch. I agonized over the romantic triangle, able to see things from all three sides, and wanted desperately for Ripley to achieve his goals, and he does, after a fashion, but at great cost. I love all the surprises in this serial, and how though things don't always turn out the way we want, there's usually a way to make things work out so we can live with them.

I decided not to see the sequel because the ending of the original is so flat out perfect for Ripley, who finds his own way to win at last, the any future other than him riding off into that particular sunset would be, for me, unbearably wrong. There was an American adaptation, Viva Laughlin, set in Laughlin, Nevada, which was cancelled after two episodes. The translation did not fare well. Stick with the original on this one.

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