The quite fabulous Gill is celebrating the career of Michael Caine with a blogathon about him. Naturally, I was more than happy to take part in doing this and I have chosen Half Moon Street to review.
Half Moon Street
- Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Lauren Slaughter
- Michael Caine as Lord Bulbeck
- Nadim Sawalha as Karim Hatami
- Keith Buckley as Hugo Van Arkady
It may be a mixed bag in various aspects, but the dramatic thriller that is Half Moon Street is very watchable and has its moments. It most benefits from the work of Weaver and Caine and what transpires between them more than anything else.
Dr. Lauren Slaughter is an American research fellow residing in London and working at the Arab-Anglo Institute. Slaughter has a PhD from Harvard and has spent a number of years doing field work in China. She is smart, driven and completely frustrated with her job at the moment. Partly, this is due to the ingrained attitudes of men being superior within many in the workplace. Though the job is something she is immensely skilled at, it doesn’t pay well enough and she is struggling with her low wages and is living in a bed sit, that leaves a lot to be desired. Lauren doesn’t know how she’s going to feel at all comfortable in both work and personal life. Her annoyance at events continues as something she wrote is plagiarised by a higher up colleague and she isn’t considered for a prestigious study in Kuwait. One day, she receives a video in the post. It details the Jasmine Agency; an escort agency for wealthy clients, many from the Middle East. Lauren decides to moonlight as an escort for money so she can live without worry and have some semblance of power. In the escorting work, she finds more control over men and independence than she does at her job at the Institute. Her attitude towards things is one of cool confidences, but one particular date makes an impact on her. She meets Lord Bulbeck, a diplomat who is involved with Middle Eastern affairs. The two hit it off and soon a genuine relationship that is more than just sex is developing for them. They are compatible in viewpoints and humour, plus both are somewhat outsiders in one way or another. But it was no accident that Lauren was set up with Lord Bulbeck. A hidden group is monitoring events between the couple and is using both as pawns in an effort to stop Bulbeck in his attempts to forge a peace deal between Arabs and Israelis. Both are not aware of what is bubbling underneath their budding romance.
Bob Swaim is a good director and his sense of style is on display in Half Moon Street can be viewed. But he often over complicates things by trying to say too much with the story and needlessly dragging out parts of it. On the negative side, the film itself takes too long to bring the thriller element out into the open. There is suspense that it manages when the danger hits, but the attempts at mystery feel flat and tacked on. If the thriller areas had been addressed earlier on and given more footing in Half Moon Street, it may have been a different story for the movie. Onto the positive notices and Half Moon Street does have a good few. The script, while requiring several leaps of faith, does have something to say about the workplace and why someone like Lauren Slaughter would turn to an escort job to keep afloat. The most impressive aspect is the relationship between Slaughter and Bulbeck; they have a great affinity with each other and you do buy into their attraction to the other. I liked watching two fine actors create this relationship with each other on screen and do it justice. The material is lifted thanks to the script but mostly the stars. An exotic flourish in the music score, that gets romantic as the characters become closer is exemplary in doing the job of crafting atmosphere in a movie like Half Moon Street.
Whatever faults Half Moon Street has, the performances by Sigourney Weaver and Michael Caine are just right. Weaver has this cool and detached attitude, partnered with a quick wit and a bemused yet sly smile. She really plays the role of Lauren Slaughter very well, balancing the independence and sexiness of a woman getting some control in her life and scoffing at chauvinistic behaviour. Matching her is Michael Caine with a lot of charm and intelligence. There’s a real twinkle in the eyes here and his work as Lord Bulbeck reflects a man of great influence and down to Earth affinity. It helps that both Weaver and Caine share an immediate chemistry with each other as love blooms for the characters. You really believe them together as a couple and that’s really down to the actors and what they accomplish, even if the movie lets them down in many ways. In supporting parts there is Nadim Sawalha and Keith Buckley as possibly shifty men who surround Lauren in their own ways. Both don’t have much to work with however, with the lion’s share of things going to Caine and Weaver.
A movie that can be both tedious and extremely gripping depending on which way it’s going, Half Moon Street elicits fine work from the two main stars and has some atmosphere of which it can be proud of.