Disappointing adaptation of Tolstoy's Master and Man from director Bernard Rose
A case of diminishing returns in term of British writer-director Bernard Rose’s Tolstoy adaptations, given that Boxing Day is his fourth film based on the work of the 19th century Russian novelist – see also Anna Karenina, Ivansxtc (inspired by The Death of Ivan Ilyich), and The Kreuzer Sonata. Rose’s regular leading man Danny Huston plays the property developer Basil, who has flown out on Boxing Day from Los Angeles to snowy Denver in Colorado, where he is met at the airport by his hired chauffeur-for-the-day Nick (Matthew Jacobs). Basil has a list of foreclosed properties scattered around the state to assess: he plans to snap them up at a reduced price, before selling them back to the banks at a profit, when they reopen for business in the New Year.
In transposing Tolstoy’s Master and Man to America in today’s global financial crisis - subprime mortgages originating in the States helped trigger the world recession - Rose presumably hoped to make a character study with topical resonance, only the screenplay here turns out to be mediocre in quality. Basil, who’s given a predictable speech praising greed as a force for economic progress, treats his driver in a supercilious manner, insisting he be called ‘Sir’.
The well-spoken Nick meanwhile has had a restraining order taken out by his wife to prevent him from seeing his children, and is hopeless at operating the satnav. Unsurprisingly the ill-matched couple get hopelessly lost and come up against the levelling power of Nature with a capital N.
The emotional heavy lifting is done here much less through performances, digital cinematography or editing than through the wheeling out of familiar European classical music heavyweights in the form of Schubert’s Piano Sonata in a Major D.959 and Gorecki’s Symphony No 3. Disappointing.
Selected release from Fri 21 Dec.