The Go-Between online movie review - A chocolate box depiction of the novel: full of richness and sweet but lacking a solid centre
When I first heard the BBC was going to show a new version of The Go Between I wanted to turn in and watch it. I read the novel years ago and it made a vivid impression on me. Its always been one of my favourite books, and I thought of it with fondness after I moved to East Anglia.
It was wonderful at first seeing the older Leo with his younger self (in his green suit) on the train. I liked how the filming concentrated on the house and the lush greenery. But I was disappointed. The new Marion is no Julie Christie. Fair enough, no one else is Julie Christie except Miss Christie herself, but the Marion in this re-imagining is fair, very pretty, but lacking any real depth until she becomes angry with Leo for not taking messages to Ted. The new Ted, like Marion, is lovely to look at. I wasn't surprised when Ted was swimming in the nude and working in the fields stripped to the waist. (The BBC has been broadcasting several adaptations of classic novels recently including scenes with topless and wet males, trying to capitalize on the fervor made by Colin Firth swimming as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) It was nice to have some eye candy for the ladies and it worked well with the themes of the story. The cricket scene and the following concert were well played too.
It turned out to be a chocolate box depiction of the Go Between, full of richness but full of sweetness mostly on the surface, mostly shallow, and ultimately unsatisfying. I disliked the compartmenting of the story so the viewpoint of the old Leo was shoehorned to the end. I missed some of the key scenes in the novel, such as Leo offering his dry bathing suit to Marion so she can dry her hair with it and Leo polishing Ted's cricket bat. I missed seeing Norwich Cathedral, and Marion meeting up again with Leo at the train section wasn't as meaningful as her ditching him at the Cathedral and telling him to wait for her. While the cricket scenes and concert scenes were effective the new version doesn't give as much indication of the class divide as the original novel or the 1971 film. I liked the hints of a Norfolk accent in Ted's speech: it would have been nice to hear and see more Norfolk in the film. It felt very abridged and heavily cut so it could fit into a 90 minute slot. I much prefer the 1971 film. Harold Pinter did a fine job with the screenplay, and the acting is superb. Only Vanessa Redgrave and Jim Broadbent achieve any pathos in this version. The young actor who plays Leo is sweet looking and finely suggests his inner torment. The viewer however isn't given any notion of Leo's acting and conniving to win popularity in the house. Several times in the novel Leo plays for effect, like asking for a large amount of sugar in his tea because small boys are supposed to like sugar. I groaned at the ending: seeing the Old Leo and the young Leo together in the train traveling to the house was effective, but seeing them together walk towards the house at the end, preparing to speak to Marion's grandson, was corny. Marion's recounting of what happened to the others in the house did sound like a rushed through list, and didn't convey the weight of destruction: how the brand new century so promising in that long ago summer turned out to be devastating for Marion, her family, and the country.