Where To Start With... Emma Thompson
Out next week on Blu-Ray and DVD, The Love Punch is not your average rom-com. In fact, it's like a romantic comedy crossed with a heist movie. Directed by Joel Hopkins, the film stars Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan as Kate and Richard Jones, a divorced couple whose futures are put in jeopardy when Richard's company goes bust, taking with it Richard's pension and, along with it, all hope of a future income for their retirement. Some people might consider legal action, but not these two. Instead they resolve to get their money back themselves through a mixture of kidnap and diamond theft.
It's a watchable caper flick that seems well-suited to its target audience, although it did get a bit of a kicking from critics when it hit the cinemas earlier this year. It's surprising, because as well as the two leads the film also features Timothy Spall and Tuppence Middleton – who fans of Friday Night Dinner might recognise – which all adds up to a very capable cast and, despite the pannings, the film is well carried by their acting performances, and Emma Thompson's in particular.It's a testament to Thompson's skills as a leading lady that the film stands up as well as it does, so in tribute we've picked out five of her best moments from a long and distinguished career. Here goes...
The Love Punch Official UK Trailer #1
The Remains of the Day
James Ivory's 1993 film, set during WWII, features Thompson in a supporting role as Miss Kenton, a newly appointed housekeeper at Darlington Hall, an expansive stately home owned by Lord Darlington. The head butler, Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), has served Lord Darlington for many years, but when it emerges that Darlington is a Nazi sympathiser when he fires two Jewish maids ahead of a conference visited by senior Nazis, Stevens becomes conflicted.
Miss Kenton issues Stevens an ultimatum: if the girls go, so does she, leaving Stevens with a dilemma, in part because he secretly agrees with Kenton's stance underneath his veneer of placid servitude, but also because he finds himself falling in love with her. Not for the last time on this list, it Thompson's on-screen chemistry with an equally brilliant Hopkins that makes this film into something very special.
In the Name of the Father
Starring alongside Daniel Day Lewis, Thompson plays lawyer Gareth Peirce in Jim Sheridan's 1993 biopic of Gerry Conlon and The Guildford Four – the men wrongly accused of the IRA's Guildford pub bombings in the 1970s. In particular, the film charts Conlon's attempts to clear his father's name, another Irishman who died in prison for a crime which Conlon is convinced he din't commit.
Thompson gives a nuanced performance in an emotionally charged film that won its cast a number of Academy Awards, including one for Thompson herself for Best Supporting Actress.
Much Ado About Nothing
Ask somebody to name a modern actor of each sex that they would associate with Shakespeare and, fairly or unfairly, the chances are that most would name Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. Sure enough, they both appear in this adaptation of Shakespeare's play, in this case also directed by Branagh.
A tale of gossip and misdirection, Thompson plays the role of Beatrice, the sworn enemy (but also lover) of Benedick, who is played by Branagh himself. Her portrayal of the candid, sharp-witted Beatrice is right on the money and her on-screen love/hate relationship with Branagh's character is one of the best performances in the film. That's really saying something in an ensemble cast that includes Richard Briars, Brian Blessed, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale and Keanu Reeves, which only goes to prove what an outstanding actor she is.
Stranger Than Fiction
Mark Forster's quirky, unusual little film stars Will Ferrell as Harold Crick, an IRS auditor who suddenly begins hearing a female narrator in his head describing everything he is doing. Only he can hear the voice and when it starts to have a negative effect on every aspect of his life, he not only thinks he is going mad but is becoming increasingly desperate to find a way to quieten this incessant inner monologue. He goes to see Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), a writer and literary expert, to see if he can help.
What he discovers is stranger even than the madness he believes he is suffering from: Hilbert recognises the narration as the writing style of an author named Karen Eiffel, played by Thompson, who is unwittingly writing a book in which Crick is the central character, but in a twist that echoes the plot of Denis Potter's Karaoke, everything she writes, Crick experiences for real. Strange, surreal and compelling, it's one of the best films we've seen Emma Thompson appear in.
Saving Mr. Banks
Co-starring Tom Hanks in the role of Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of Disney's 20-year battle to make a film adaptation of Mary Poppins. Thompson stars as the author of the books, P.L. Travers, bringing to life her reputation as a prickly and difficult individual. Her on-screen chemistry with Hanks in the role of Disney is what really makes this film tick and it's difficult to imagine a better casting than Thompson in this role. One of her best moments in recent years.