MRR Review: "Arthur Newman"

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Divorced and dissatisfied with a young son who hates him and a girlfriend who is tiring of his inattentiveness, Wallace Avery (Colin Firth) feels he's got nothing worth hanging onto. So he takes a step that many dream of, but rarely follow through on: he purchases the identity of a deceased man, fakes his own death, and starts a new life as Arthur Newman, golf pro. Shortly after beginning this new existence, however, he meets and falls in love with a woman (Emily Blunt) whom he discovers is also trying to leave her past behind.
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MRR Review: "Arthur Newman"

-- Rating: R
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: April 26, 2013
Directed By: Dante Ariola
Genre: Drama/Comedy

Released to United States viewers in April 2013, "Arthur Newman" gave audiences a look into what it might be like if they were able to escape their day-to-day lives and start anew. The film combines top-notch directing by Dante Ariola and a star-studded cast to create a film that is part comedy, part drama, and all entertainment.

Wallace Avery (Colin Firth) is a man who could have had it all. By the time he hits middle age, he has gone from being a successful professional golfer to a nameless corporate worker. He is divorced by a woman who hates him; has a teenage son, Kevin (Lucas Hedges), who doesn't like him any better; a girlfriend, Mina (Anne Heche), who is less than happy with him; and is in a job that he can't stand. He creates an elaborate plan to stage his own death close to the ocean so that he can run away and start everything all over again as Arthur Newman.

He soon meets up with Michaela, a grafter who prefers to be called Mike (Emily Blunt). She is also trying to escape her past, so the two soon become fast friends. Arthur should have understood the problems that the beautiful yet fragile Mike had, as the couple first met one night when she was drunk and sitting by the edge of a low-budget motel's swimming pool.

Although she sees Arthur as little more than an easy mark, the daring couple develop a bond that is slightly romantic and very much kindred spirits. They head off on a road trip to Terre Haute, Indiana. Along the way, they break into other people's homes and pretend to be them, in the process taking on the persons of an elderly couple, a high-rolling gambler and his Russian lover, and others. For them, it's easier to pretend to be someone else than to simply be themselves.

By the end of the story, both Mike and Arthur decide that what they really love about themselves and each other is what they left behind. As so often happens when people begin to doubt themselves, they work the healing process together so that they can move on with the lives they originally left behind.

Oscar-nominated writer Becky Johnston, who also wrote "The Prince of Tides" and "Under the Cherry Moon," wrote the original screenplay in the early 1990s. Her intent was to have Nick Nolte take on the role of Arthur Newman, since the pair had already worked together on a previous film. The film, unfortunately, was shelved.

Dante Ariola was a successful commercial director who had aspirations of doing a feature film, and he felt this story would be a good way for him to achieve his goal. Despite the fact that the original screenplay was written before Google was a household name and cellphones were commonplace, he forged ahead with the project, retrofitting the screenplay for the modern times.

British actor Colin Firth steals the show with his rendition of Arthur Newman. Firth began his acting career in 1984 with bit parts in television shows and movies, and he landed his first recurring role in the 1986 television mini-series "Lost Empires." His portrayal of Mr. Darcy in the 1995 mini-series "Pride and Prejudice" garnered him international acclaim, and he followed that up with his role as Geoffrey Clifton in the 1996 hit "The English Patient." Firth became an A-list celebrity and continued to land roles in movies like "Bridget Jones Diary," "What a Girl Wants," "Love Actually," "Mamma Mia!" and "A Christmas Carol." He has been recognized with forty-eight awards, including an Oscar in 2011 for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his role as King George VI in "The King's Speech," and he has garnered an additional thirty-one nominations.

Emily Blunt, also born in England, played the difficult role as Mike. A relatively newcomer to the screen, Blunt began her acting career in 2003 with the role of Isolda in "Warrior Queen." She won the hearts of the movie audience with her 2006 portrayal of Mara in "Irresistible," and she followed that up by playing the role of Emily in "The Devil Wears Prada." Blunt also had roles in "Charlie Wilson's War," "The Wolfman," and "Gulliver's Travels."

Although it's too soon to tell whether "Arthur Newman" will be recognized on the award circuit, it has won audiences across the country. No matter how successful people are, it's natural to wonder what life would be like if they were someone else. In addition to giving viewers that vicarious thrill, "Arthur Newman" also makes them laugh and sometimes even cry.

Rating 3 out of 5