Hair of the Dog
Since the death of his younger brother in the Boer war and shortly after his mother died, Henslowe Fisk (Jeremy Northam - Martin and Lewis) has fallen in to a routine of spending Thursdays with his curmudgeonly father Horatio (Peter O'Toole - Christmas Cottage). On this particular Thursday they go a lecture by a visiting swami (Art Malik) who is giving a talk on the transmigration of souls. It is there that they meet conveyancer Wrather (Bryan Brown - The Poseidon Adventure) and local clergyman, Dean Spanley (Sam Neill - Irresistible). As the day plays out Henslowe meets the Dean on two more occasions, firstly at his father's club where they discover the Dean has a penchant for Tokay wine and then again outside a church. Intrigued by the Dean's interest in reincarnation Henslowe calls on the services of Wrather to acquire some vintage Tokay wine in order to lure the Dean into having a meal with him. The meal with the aid of the wine starts to reveal curious memories of a previous life as a dog!
Quirky is a word I quite often use but it seems exceptionally apt when discussing the movie "My Talks with Dean Spanley". Well let's be honest any movie which sees someone having memories of a previous life as a Welsh Spaniel definitely fits the bill of being quirky. And it is not just the storyline which is quirky as so are the characters as is the dialogue which makes it a rather amusing movie with a talented cast making it a pure joy.
But "My Talks with Dean Spanley" whilst entertaining because of its curiously comical nature is frankly also laborious. By that I mean it is exceptional slow going and for a while seems to be heading nowhere other than in to a quirky bygone era where cricket is played in rooms with glass windows and people inquire about whether animals are reincarnated which as it turns out dogs do better than cats. When it does get to what for me is the main part of the story which sees Henslowe entertaining the Dean over glasses of Tokay it certainly grabs your attention.
In fact "My Talks with Dean Spanley" grabs your attention right from the word go because it is such a wonderfully visual movie, crisp imagery, fantastic period settings and a smoothness of camera work which is gorgeous for those who care about these things. But it also has wonderful performances, many wonderful performances be it Sam Neill as the curious Dean Spanley to Bryan Brown as the roguish Wrather. But whilst Jeremy Northam plays the main lead it is Peter O'Toole who steals this movie with such a wonderful visual performance with so much comedy coming from the looks he gives and the sudden outbursts of an old misery who doesn't care about what others think. Trust me when I say that if the slow and curious storyline doesn't charm you the performances especially that of Peter O'Toole will.
What this all boils down to is that "My Talks with Dean Spanley" is not going to be for everyone as it is slow and intriguingly quirky. But it is such a wonderfully looking movie and wonderfully acted that it is hard not to appreciate it.