The Song of Lunch
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Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson star in this powerful and visually arresting fusion of poetry and drama. The Song of Lunch is based on Christopher Reid's narrative poem following the story of an unnamed book editor who is meeting his former love 15 years after their break-up for a nostalgic lunch at the Soho restaurant they used to frequent. The woman is now living a glamorous life in Paris, married to a world-renowned writer. The unnamed editor has failed in his writing career, detests his mundane publishing job and regrets the end of their love affair. When he arrives at the restaurant, he finds it under new management and much changed, and this seems to fuel his resentment about growing older and being left behind. The stage is set for an emotional and bittersweet reunion. As the wine flows, and the couple rake over their failed relationship, nostalgia slowly turns to recrimination.
Turning a piece of literature into a film isn't easy, and while the task is even more daunting when the literature in question is a poem, director-screenwriter Niall MacCormick has done a worthy job of it with The Song of Lunch, a brief and earnest meditation about the reunion of two lovers at a London restaurant. In adapting Christopher Reid's 2009 work, MacCormick appears to have hewed to the format of the original, with the majority of the story (such as it is) told by the male of the couple (Alan Rickman); indeed, there's a good deal more voice-over than dialogue, and his former lover (Emma Thompson), whom he meets for lunch 15 years after their breakup at what was once their favorite Italian eatery, has very little of the latter. Nonetheless, their dynamic is established quickly and indelibly: he's a frustrated poet, a fellow who describes himself as "not nice" and "a figure of folly and pathos" and hates his book-editing job, while she's living happily in Paris with her husband (a successful novelist with "a wintry smirk") and kids. Only one of these people is sorry their love affair ended, and the meeting does not go well. She's straightforward, sharp, and honest; he's a self-absorbed, self-pitying drunk who's defensive about the failure of the one book of poems he managed to get published, and his demonstrable unlikability makes it difficult to care about him, to say the least. All of this is a bit stilted, not to mention laborious (even at a slight 50 minutes), but MacCormick livens things up by effectively applying cinematic touches like flashbacks to the lovers' earlier days; long, lingering shots (some in slow motion); and close-ups that highlight every detail of this unhappy event. The Song of Lunch isn't a lot of fun, but the mere fact that it's trying to do something a little different is commendable. --Sam Graham
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Top Customer Reviews
If you think of the repartee of My Dinner with Andre as the model for this conversation over a meal, you will be sadly left hungry.
This is not worth the investment for most people although there may be a few out there who will enjoy this. Check out a preview somewhere before buying.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Rickman plays a struggling editor who yearns to reconnect to a time in his life where he felt more alive, more impassioned. He has this idealized version of a past romance that he clings to as a symbol of youth and possibilities. The fact that the object of his affection has established a life (complete with husband and family) doesn't really seem to click with him. After 15 years, he sets up a lunch with Thompson and he has constructed this elaborate scenario about the way it will turn out. Other than this, you don't get a lot of back story about the characters. The lunch itself becomes a painful exercise in awkwardness, as the rather unpleasant Rickman descends into belligerence and an alcoholic haze. The actual dialogue is tight with some amusing lines, but most of the drama takes place in Rickman's mind. In many ways, Thompson becomes just another prop to support the narrative of Rickman's ramblings and failed expectations.
There is an underlying sadness and melancholia infused throughout the piece. Rickman, seemingly dissatisfied with life, makes a last ditch effort to revive a happier time. But the effort, as we all know it will be, is a futile one. But the elements of living life when you have the chance and not dwelling on regrets really does resonate. Interestingly, Rickman is NOT a particularly sympathetic character. This is certain to turn some viewers off. But it is precisely his unpleasantness that makes his quiet desperation so palpable. It's a great performance, though most of it in voice over. Thompson is the picture of loveliness. It's always great to see her, but she doesn't have too much to do. In the end, your expectations about what "Song of Lunch" should be will decide whether it is for you. It is a simple and evocative depiction of a narrative poem, not a fully plotted character piece. It may not be for everyone, but I think it succeeds at what it attempts to convey. KGHarris, 11/11.
There are two positive reviews here already which I second and can't improve upon. Personally, I loved this, but as noted it's not for everyone. It's mainly the inner monologue of "He" with Rickman and Thompson serving as eye-candy, depending on your opinion of them. I find his character is probably the most realistic one I've seen him play. Not to say that I would like to have a lunch like this with him! He is peevish, egotistical and self-destructive.** You may fail to be drawn in by him at the beginning and just find him a drunken bore or a creepy stalker as some other reviewers did, or (SPOILERS) you might find the way he screws it up a little heartbreaking, willing him to do or say things differently - some people might find that a bit painful to sit through. However, I didn't find the "poem" or the concept pretentious, at all. I can't hear "Happy Times" anymore without thinking of TSOL and feeling that bit wistful because of it. And on the other hand if you are a Rickmaniac (LIKE ME), you may be so distracted by the illusion of having him sitting across the table from you that you may not care how badly he behaves...
**Mmmkay, people, to amend my review ...I am talking about the FICTIONAL CHARACTER "He", NOT Alan Rickman, himself!!! I find AR's portrayal of such a CHARACTER: washed-up, bitter, an alcoholic, is a REALISTIC portrayal of SUCH a PERSON, which is NOT Alan Rickman, playing himself! FAR FROM IT! Hope that clears things up....I can't help you if it doesn't!
Alan Richman plays 'He', no names mentioned. He is an editor and sometimes poet. He has arranged for a meeting with an old flame, and it turns out, 'She', played by Emma Thompson, left him for someone else. He does most of the narration, telling his tale, a sodden tale it seems. He plans the lunch at an old restaruant they used to inhabit, and he relives the days of yore down to the tablecloths and the owner. It turns out eveything has changed, as it is wont to do after 15 years. Strike this as a real negative for him. He starts drinking as soon as he sits down. It appears that liquid meals are his style. She comes in the door, much better looking and dressed than he remembers. In his mind he starts reliving the memories of her. She has to bring him back to the present several times.
"He" however, is stuck in his own mind. As the drinking resumes she makes the statement that he is "out to lunch at your own lunch". That pretty well sums it up. He is very frustrating, you want to kick him or slap his face. We have all met people like this, and it is often that the alcohol brings out their worst side. He is not a likeable person, and he keeps talking. I wanted to say to him, "shut up and let her talk." She has a lot to say and most of it is 'right on'. She remembers correctly and after this lunch she must be thankful that she did not end up with him.
We have a portrait of this couple, the lives they had together and the lives they lead now. She knows him well and tells him that his poetry is not his therapy. It is quite apparent that he needs the latter. He is an insufferable prig from my viewpoint, and I wonder how the rest of his life will evolve. The film's camerawork is superb. It is the faces and the expressions of these two that convey most of the story. Memories are made of this, it seems.
Recommended. prisrob 11-14-11
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The one-hour show is, in fact, adapted from a beautiful narrative poem by Christopher Reid, most of which is presented in a voice-over as stream-of-consciousness thought.
Alan Rickman plays a bitter London book editor who is meeting his former lover (Emma Thompson) for lunch at the restaurant they used to frequent. The couple hasn't seen each other for fifteen years. She is now a wife and mother, living in Paris, married to a successful writer, while Rickman, having failed in his artistic endeavors, detests his low level position at the publishing house where he works.
The reunion does not go well from the start. Not only has the restaurant changed from what Rickman remembers, but also once Emma arrives, he begins to over indulge in the grape and his attitude becomes surly.
Director Niall MacCormick has done a fine job of keeping this low-key drama engrossing and seemingly unconfined, not an easy feat since most of the action is set in the restaurant at a small corner table. And, of course, Rickman and Ms. Thompson are nothing short of brilliant in their roles.
THE SONG OF LUNCH is on DVD from BBC Video.
© Michael B. Druxman
However, while I enjoyed watching two distinguished artists ply their craft, I just couldn't warm to the "he" character becuz, as a bitter, effete, lecherous, alcoholic boor, he was very unsympathetic and - even worse - a cliche (esp since he's a failed poet/writer). A further complication is that the storyline became predictable after he downed his second - if not his first - glass of wine.
Despite the wonderful performances (esp by Rickman) and the somewhat clever analogy regarding the changes to the "she" character and to the restaurant in which the ex-lovers dine wrought by the 15 year interim, upon the conclusion of THE SONG OF LUNCH, I just couldn't help feeling that I had just wasted 50 minutes.