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Death and Life of John F. Donovan (The)

Country: Canada | UK, Language: English, 127 mins

Original Title

Ma Vie Avec John F. Donovan
  • Director: Xavier Dolan
  • Writer: Jacob Tierney; Xavier Dolan
  • Producer: Xavier Dolan; Lyse Lafontaine; Nancy Grant; Joe Iacono; Michel Merkt

CGiii Comment

Nicholas Hoult walked out. Jessica Chastain was cut out...and, Adele didn't show up.

Otherwise, a star-studded cast with Oscar winners & nominees [galore] and Kit Harington freshly off the Game-of-Thrones boat...playing a gay [closeted] superstar! Directed by the [gay] prince of Cannes: Xavier Dolan.

You would think the LGBT media would have been all over this...nope, hardly even a whisper! It's not too difficult to see why...this is an absolute disaster of a [semi-autobiographical] film. A film that had obvious intentions to expose the difficulties of being gay in Hollywoodland...but, missed the mark completely.

There's nothing wrong with the performances, although Jacob Tremblay overly acted precocity is more irritating than a mosquito bite...Kit does little [while looking good], Kathy [Bates] does even less, Natalie [Portman] isn't given enough to work with and Susan [Sarandon] pops in now and then...and, near the end, Michael [Gambon] appears [briefly and bizarrely] out of he a ghost, is he the word of the man upstairs? Who knows? Who cares?

The cinematography is impressive...perhaps, too many close-ups...but, on the whole, the composition has to be admired. It's a fine-looking, cinematic film...with crisp editing and a fine and familiar soundtrack.

So...what went wrong? Well, it all boils down to the writing, it is abysmal. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why this story has no depth...the main protagonists [Kit & Jacob/John & Rupert]- being a [generous] generation apart, living absolute opposite lives & lifestyles - never meet. Wee Rupert squeals [like nails being dragged down a blackboard] when he's sees John on TV, writes him a ton of letters, he [surprisingly] replies [why?]...but, they never actually meet! As the title reveals, John dies [by his own hand?]...and Rupert [now grown] releases the letters in the form of a book...the whole film is framed around him being interviewed by a snarly journalist...about the letters, the book and the superstar he never actually met! And...surprise, surprise, he turns out to be gay!

Y'know...if Mr Dolan had taken out all the book/letters/kid stuff...resurrected Jessica Chastain from the editing-room floor [who cuts out Jessica Chastain?], gave Kit a recognisable arc...there may have been a decent film produced...about homosexuality in the public arena. Sadly, this is not would seem, a bamboozling conceit and an erratic ego got in the way.


The(ir) Blurb...

A decade after the death of an American TV star, a young actor reminisces the written correspondence he shared with him, as well as the impact those letters had on both their lives.

Cast & Characters

Thandie Newton as Audrey Newhouse
Natalie Portman as Sam Turner
Bella Thorne as Jeanette
Jacob Tremblay as Rupert Turner
Kit Harington as John F. Donovan
Sarah Gadon as Liz Jones
Susan Sarandon as Grace Donovan
Michael Gambon as Narrator
Emily Hampshire as Amy Bosworth
Kathy Bates as Barbara Haggermaker
Ben Schnetzer as Rupert Turner (Adult)
Chris Zylka as Will Jefford Jr.
Amara Karan as Mrs. Kureishi
Ari Millen as Big Billy
Jared Keeso as James Donovan