A Merry War

Encouraged by a favorable review of his poems—written by his own publisher—Gordon Comstock (Richard E. Grant) decides to quit his copywriting job to pursue poetry and poverty full-time. Set in London in the 30s, this adaptation of George Orwell's semiautobiographical novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying satirizes everything it takes on, which I guess makes it a work of leveling irony. Miserable at first in a respectable cheap rooming house, Gordon eventually winds up in a disreputable cheaper one, where he seems much happier. Meanwhile his former boss repeatedly importunes his girlfriend (Helena Bonham Carter) to pursuade Gordon to return to the ad agency. But Gordon is as determined to use his poems to expose the hypocrisies of middle-class life as he is to become a hypocrite by achieving fame and fortune. Maybe this is hopelessly dated material—its meaning convoluted by Orwell's reputation—or maybe satire becomes pathetic when it angles too hard for laughs. Ironically, if not deliberately, the movie is as eye-catching as a splashy commercial. Robert Bierman (Vampire's Kiss) directed a screenplay by Alan Plater.

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