Release Date: Now
Remakes are a tricky thing. For the audience that remembers the original, there is always the danger they’ll end up quoting scripture, “The old is better.” But the new version of Arthur is a fresh take on the parable of the Prodigal Son that is as insightful as it is easy going.
Arthur is the story of the dissolute son of a vast investment empire who squanders millions each year in the pursuit of pleasure. “That’s what money is for,” he tells Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a woman he is trying to impress. “To create pieces of art to enjoy.” And there is a certain sense in this – why have wealth if you’re unable to benefit from it? At least that’s what the writer of Ecclesiastes believes:
“I have seen another evil under the sun, and it weighs heavily on mankind: God gives some people wealth, possessions and honor, so that they lack nothing their hearts desire, but God does not grant them the ability to enjoy them.”
Arthur Bach has no problem enjoying his wealth. Far from it! But his life has become so frivolous that he has lost sight of any real purpose. Money is a good gift, but for him it has become a terrible god. His mother tries to snap him out of his prodigal state by threatening to cut him off from his inheritance unless he marries the disturbingly sensible Susan (Jennifer Garner). But Arthur’s affections have settled on Naomi – will he choose the money or the girl?
Arthur is a romantic comedy so the outcome is never really in any doubt. But it still contains some surprises. British funny-man Russell Brand is a worthy replacement for the original Dudley Moore, even if Greta Gerwig is a little flat in comparison to Liza Minnelli. Even better, though, is the flawless performance by Helen Mirren as Brand’s lifetime nanny Hobson. But the greatest surprise of all is the way that Arthur is not allowed to walk away with the girl until he has actually grown up. The 20 year old I was watching this with was struck by how much the film reminded him that he had to take responsibility for his own life – so it seems there’s hope for the rom-com after all!
Escape to the Country
Release Date: Sundays, 9:00 PM
Escape to the Country is part travel show, part Grand Designs and all about our inability to understand how to really help ourselves.
Each week the series locates a couple that would like to shift from some busy city locale in the United Kingdom, to a more relaxing rural retreat. Real Estate experts Jules Hudson, Alistair Appleton, Nicki Chapman and the occasional guest take turns showing couples three homes that meet their specifications, and an additional ‘mystery house’ guaranteed to excite or repulse them. The prospective buyers then must decide whether or not any of the properties will help them achieve their ideal tree-change.
Escape to the Country is in its ninth season and the forerunner of many other relocation programs that have paradoxically already made it to Australian television. However if you’re the sort of home voyeur that just can’t resist an open house then this is the program for you. The series is not bad for light viewing; I think it’s an excellent watch for those days I’m missing a bit of Kevin McCloud’s architectural enthusiasm. One of the other pros is discovering just how many unspoilt hamlets the English countryside still has to offer. However the best benefit has to be the insight into human nature.
It should come as no surprise that people in the market for a home always think their money will buy more than it reasonably can. Yet Escape to the Country also reveals how easy we think it is to transform our lives. When you get down to it a new home, in a new location is unlikely to mean a new me – just the old me in new surroundings. I’m not saying that not having to climb a set of stairs ten times a day won’t improve your temper, but just because you now have room for orphaned ponies doesn’t mean you’ll develop the generosity to take them in. Houses are where we live; the heart of a home has more to do with people in it. And that sort of renovation takes more than a relocation to a sunnier side of the street.