The new Rachel Weisz movie poster was all over London. The actress’ mouth covered with a red tape, the word Denial in capital letters written over it. She was flanked by 2 of the most understated yet talented English actors, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall – I was sold.
In “Denial”, Weisz, sporting a rather hideous red mop for hair, dressed in 80s attire and speaking with her usual beautiful voice in an unusually American accent, plays the role of real-life History Professor Lipstadt.
In 1996, Deborah Lipstadt (and her publisher, Penguin books) found herself in the very difficult position of having to actually prove to an English Court that she was right in accusing fellow (self-professed) historian David Irvine (Timothy Spall) of Holocaust denial in her book “Denying The Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory“, when he sued her for libel.
For her legal case, she enlists the help of British-Jewish lawyer Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), already famous for being the one who represented Princess Diana in her divorce, and his team (among them the lovely Tom Wilkinson). But she has serious trouble trusting their tactics, as she finds herself torn between doing what the pros tell her to and what her Jewish roots (in the form of a Holocaust survivor) urge her to do.
Lipstadt soon realizes that sometimes it takes a less direct and more tactical fight to beat an insidious, cunning opponent.
The Acting/ Directing
Even though I generally consider Rachel Weisz to be a good actress, I was left totally unimpressed by her performance in Denial. To be fair, I do not know the real-life Deborah Lipstadt, but I was totally disengaged with the main character of the film, and I don’t think the director meant for me to be so.
As for Timothy Spall and Tom Wilkinson, they both did a great job, as per usual. But their acting was not enough to save the day, unfortunately.
I think my biggest problem with “Denial” is that its director, Mick Jackson (best known for “The Bodyguard“), found a good, relevant story and failed to breathe artistic genius into it. The film’s drab tone and obvious lack of inspiration leave a lot to be desired.
It is sad that at times like these; where alternative facts and conspiracy theories are very much “a thing”, the movie fails to artistically capitalize on its momentum, only to end up looking like a matter-of-fact, rather dull TV movie.
Unfortunately, “Denial” does not make it to movie Heaven, for letting so much narrative potential go to waste, not managing to take out a great performance by an actress as good as we know Weisz to be, and for looking more like a TV movie than a cinema film.
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