I'm not a big fan of modern-day Hollywood or am I a star worshipper, but I can't help but be impressed by the poise, dignity and intelligence that Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have shown over the years, despite their young ages and the pressure of being the focus of attention for so long. What is equally impressive is that all three have shown themselves to be, over the years, fine actors with bright futures ahead of them, despite basically learning their craft on the job during the Potter films. Luckily they all had some innate talent, as well as the tutoring by example of some of the finest British actors in history! In short, I wish them well, and I wish we had more stars like them. The Potter Series is now finished and the young actors have moved on to their own careers. Daniel Radcliffe has appeared on Broadway in Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, while Emma Watson has begun a burgeoning movie carerer with My Week with Marilyn and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In 2006 and 2007, I reviewed several films the young stars did in between Potter films. Here are those reviews of My Boy Jack with Daniel Radcliffe, Ballet Shoes with Emma Watson and Driving Lessons with Rupert Grint, updated for 2011.
Written by actor Daniel Haig, MY BOY JACK is a heartbreaking tale of a father, a son, and a war. The father is novelist Rudyard Kipling, played by Haig, who uses his connections with the higher-ups in the British Empire to get his eager son into the armed forces on the cusp of World War I. The son is Jack, played by Daniel Radcliffe, a wiry young man who is rejected by the Army and Navy for his poor eyesight but winds up in the Irish Guard.
But MY BOY JACK is not a war story, it is a family drama centered on Kipling's desire to have his boy fight for the British, Jack's desire to please his father, and Mrs. Kipling's search for Jack when he goes missing in action. Although the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Jack was guaranteed to bring the ratings to ITV, the film really belongs to Haig, who not only looks like Kipling but also wrote the teleplay based on his own stage play. Radcliffe is good in the film, very good at times, although it make take Potterphiles a while to get past the idea of seeing Harry Potter in an Irish Guard uniform and ill-fitting hat. But Haig's performance as Kipling is at the heart of the film, and is so good, I would pay to see him in a one-man show about Kipling, even though I've never read a word of the author. Kim Catrall rounds out the cast with a touching performance as Caroline Kipling, the author's wife. Her manic sense of denial as she pours through photographs of soldiers trying to find one of her son provides some of the film's most powerful moments.
Although he in only in half the film, Radcliffe does fine work as a boy who should have never been placed on the front lines and yet emerges as a leader of men. As his work on stage these days shows, it seems he will definitely escape being forever typecast as the boy wizard. - JB
You can also see Daniel Radcliffe in David Copperfield (1999), The Tailor of Panama (2001), December Boys (2007) and the upcoming Woman in Black (2012). He was the only one of the three who had previous film or television acting experience before being cast for the Harry Potter films.
Emma Watson opted for a television period piece while between Potter movies. Based on Noel Streatfield's book, BALLET SHOES is a light and winsome film, presented on the BBC as a Christmas treat to British telly-viewers. The film is about three sisters, all adopted individually by an eccentric fossil collector (played by the marvelous Richard Griffiths), who attend ballet school while trying to fulfill their own dreams and desires. Free from most of the ticks and tricks she uses to play the brainy but bothersome Hermione in the Potter films, Watson acquits herself nicely here, even getting in a creditable recitation of Shakespeare when as sister Pauline, she uses a speech from Puck for an audition. In a frothy fairy tale like this, her surprising charm (not usually evident in the Potter films) and appealing looks are assets. Overall the film is a trifle, but a lovely one, and this from a guy who can recite the script of GOODFELLAS from memory.
It is the attention to 1930's period detail and the fine, easy-going performances of all involved that put this film over, since the story itself provides so many Deus ex Maximas to solve all the girls's problems, there is little suspense in the plot. The real charmer of the three actresses playing the sisters is Yasmin Paige as Petrova who virtually steals the film as sister Petrova, who dutifully goes through the motions at ballet school but really wants to be an aviator like Amelia Earhart. She is almost equaled by the youngest actress, Lucy Boynton, as Posy, the one sister who truly wants to dance. for a living All three young actresses manage a nice chemistry together, and are helped out tremendously by the adult cast, including the aforementioned Griffiths (Uncle Vernon of the Potter films) as Great Uncle Matthew and Emilia Fox as the girls' mother, who needs them all to be successful if she is going to be able to pay the bills each month.
In the waning days of the Potter years and after, Watson has become something of a fashion icon in England, and seems to be picking films for their scripts rather than for their hit potential. It seems one of the things she shares with Hermione Granger is her smarts. ½ - JB
You can also see (or hear) Emma Watson in The Tale of Despereaux (2008 - animated - voice only), My Week With Marilyn (2011) and the upcoming The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
In each of the first two Potter trio "solo" films I have watched, the young stars have given good performances but were somewhat outshined by at least one cast mate. The story is the same with DRIVING LESSONS, a coming of age story starring Rupert Grint. Even though he doesn't get the nearly the amount of press that Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson do, he may have the brightest future in films. His awkwardness and non-star looks are as appealing in their own way as the more conventional looks of his his two Potter co-stars, and he may have the most rounded acting skills of all three, certainly possessing the best flair for comedy.
Yet it is Julie Walters who provides the best reason to watch DRIVING LESSONS, a movie that strains to be seen as original yet is made up of two of the biggest cliches of independent films. Grint plays a character not too far removed from Ron Weasley - a young man in the shadows waiting to break out and find his moment in the sun. Julie Walter is the aging and eccentric actress who hires him as a personal assistant even though her life seems to consist solely of gardening and getting herself into spontaneous mischief. The whole "eccentric old woman" plot has been done to death, from HAROLD AND MAUDE through GRACE QUIGLEY and beyond, but if you get the right actress, it is usually fun to watch. Walters is hilarious throughout, and, having worked with Grint in five films as the Weasley matriarch, she obviously is confortable playing off him Their many scenes together, which take up most of the movies, make the film fun to watch.
But aside from the "eccentric woman" cliche, we have the anti-Christian attitude that seems to be the sole reason to even mention Christianity in films these days. Christians are forever being portrayed as Bible-quoting, icy smiling, foolish, vapid hypocritical idiots. I've had just about my fill of it and have taken an entire star off my rating because of it.
His friends Dan and Emma get more publicity these days, and Rupert Grint appears to be slow off the mark when it comes to a post-Potter career, but it seems that's the way he wants it. He is attached to several films scheduled for 2013. ½ - JB
You can also see Rupert Grint in Thunderpants (2002), Cherrybomb (2009), Wild Target (2010) and the upcoming Into the White (2012)