We all think we know Richard Curtis, right? Huge British writer/ director who helped make modern British cinema what it is today? Reinventor of the romantic comedy before sinking it under the weight of his own clichés? Co-creator and co-author of Blackadder? Figure most responsible for the rise of Hugh Grant as an actor?
Right. Well, this movie is where you can see him transition from his screenwriting/ sketch comedy roots to what he has become today. It has everything we know and love/ hate about his movies: the gormless-yet-much-more-clued-up-than-everyone-about-him lead; the quirky yet adorable female lead; the bizarre circle of friends and acquaintances; the cameos or supporting characters played by a who’s-who of British comedy; the utter balls-up of a perfect situation that drives the third act; it even has the first of his trademark racing-to-the-climax scenes. The only real difference between this and anything he’s produced lately would be that the jokes are quite a bit more blue than what we’ve become used to since about Notting Hill.
But what is it about? Well, Dexter King (Jeff Goldblum) is the eponymous tall guy of the title. He’s spent the last few years playing straight man to Ron Anderson (Rowan Atkinson). One day he meets Nurse Kate Lemmon (Emma Thompson) and falls instantly for her, so much so that, after what is possibly the funniest sex scene ever committed to film, he is late for work and is fired (and his exchange with a prostitute on his way to work is a classic!). Soon after this he is cast as the lead in Elephant!, a musical based on the life of The Elephant Man, which is worth watching the rest of the movie for.
This is not a film to everyone’s tastes and does take a little time to build up a reasonable head of steam but I love it because of its sense of humour (there’s a lot to be said for a film that is so willing to poke fun at the industry that birthed it), its big heart and its simple but compelling story. There are some great gags (if you’re a fan of Mr Bean, you might recognise a couple of Ron and Dexter’s routines) and characters (the entire plotline dealing with the production of Elephant! will be hilarious to anyone who’s spent some time around the theatre) but also a few predictable jokes or things that don’t come off terribly well in their execution: a lot of the time it feels like an extended episode of a comedy series rather than a movie, not surprising given Curtis’ background in TV and director Mel Smith’s background in TV. However, there’s enough joy and humanity to keep you watching and it’s interesting to watch because you get a chance to see where Curtis develops a lot of his themes for his future work.
You can purchase The Tall Guy here: https://www.amazon.com.au/TALL-GUY-THE-DVD/dp/B00009PAGM
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