Welcome to Jessica-BrownFindlay.Com your #1 fansite for the beautiful and talented British actress. Best known for playing Lady Sybil Crawley in the ITV series Downton Abbey but you may also know her from Albatross, The Riot Club and Lullaby. Jessica is set to star alongside Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy as Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein (2015). Please browse the site and visit our image gallery featuring over 20,000 photos. The site is still growing and we will continue to bring you daily Jessica updates! If you have any questions comments or donations please contact us xoxo
Posts Tagged ‘review’
By Jess • September 07, 2017 • 0 Comments

A biopic about the early days of Morrissey is a portrait of the artist as a young mope. It’s “authentic,” but where’s the fire?

“England Is Mine” is a biopic about the early days of Morrissey, the lead singer of the Smiths, that features two minutes of Morrissey singing and 97 minutes of Morrissey moping. There are Morrissey fans who would swear that makes it one of the most accurate biopics ever made. Yet even for some of us who are Smiths believers, the movie is a bit much. At certain points in the middle of it, you may think “I’m miserable now,” though not in the way that Morrissey had in mind.

In the ’80s, everyone loved to talk about how Morrissey was the most sensitive and misunderstood guy on the planet. He had quite an image: exquisitely depressed, a swooning (but celibate!) gay vegetarian wallflower, awash in the poetic romance of self-pity. I was shocked when I finally saw him onstage, because he was every inch a rock star — like a statue by Michelangelo who swayed, his dark hair tall but trim at the nape of the neck (a style as shockingly “straight,” in its way, as Bryan Ferry’s was in the early ’70s), with movements that expressed the reverent ecstasy that his lyrics kept telling you life had denied him. But then, that was the beautiful yin-and-yang of Morrissey: He fashioned terminal shyness into a rebel gesture, and made a lot of masochistically alienated too-smart-for-the-room kids feel as if they, too, had a voice.

His own voice was gorgeous, a sweetly plaintive tenor that could reach up and carry you away, to the point that it almost didn’t matter if his melodies all sounded like they were improvised around the same three notes (kind of like “Three Blind Mice” with variations). All that began to coalesce in 1982, when Morrissey, who had just turned 23, teamed up with Johnny Marr (only 19 at the time), who caressed his guitar into producing roiling sunlit waves of sound.

“England Is Mine,” however, is set mostly in the late ’70s, when Morrissey was still just Steven Morrissey, an aimless, morosely buttoned-up teenager from a working-class Irish family in Manchester, trying to fit in even though it felt like death to him. The movie’s star, Jack Lowden, is one of the actors from “Dunkirk,” and when you see him here you think: Yes, he looks like he could be one of 25 different British soldiers from “Dunkirk.” As Steven, Lowden wears longish curly hair and big glasses that make him look like a ’70s-slacker version of Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent, with a dash of Daniel Day-Lewis. The young Morrissey was, of course, quite handsome, but in a puckish-lipped, dark-eyebrowed, lantern-jawed black-Irish way. Lowden comes off more like a serenely good-looking jock who hasn’t found the right sport yet. His Steven skulks around, writing lyrics in his diary-notebook and fighting off the contempt of his father, who soon splits for good.

Steven is a shrinking violet, a bored aesthete, and a snob, though not necessarily in that order. He’s a music fan (he attends a Sex Pistols gig and writes scathing rock reviews in the form of letters to punk fanzines), but from the movie you’d never guess that this was someone who spun an entire book out of his obsession with the New York Dolls. Even in the privacy of his bedroom, where he stretches out his arms in front of an imagined audience, we don’t see rock ‘n’ roll taking Steven over. When Billy Duffy (Adam Lawrence), who will briefly become his bandmate in the Nosebleeds, is rifling through Steven’s albums and comments on the first Clash LP by saying that he likes Joe Strummer’s lyrics, Steven replies, “Don’t you find him rather schematic in his self-flagellating worldview?” Well, yes, of course, but no future lead singer should be that hard to please.

Steven performs a club gig with the Nosebleeds, and the movie, for one song, sparks to life. A record company comes into the picture, but it hires Billy and passes on Steven, an event that sends the singer into a tailspin of depression that doesn’t make for much drama. At his office job, Steven displays a boredom with everything he’s doing that doesn’t exactly endear him to his colleagues — though one, the comely Christine (Jodie Comer), looks past his shyness; she doesn’t even think twice when he refuses to come up to her flat for a late-night drink. But those in the audience may wonder, since this painful reticence is virtually the only sign of Steven’s sexuality. “England Is Mine” is fussy and prudish — about erotic longing, and about the rock ‘n’ roll that gives form to it. Even the film’s title is off. It was originally set to be called “Steven,” but that non-money title has been replaced by one that T.S. Eliot would have rejected for being too stuffy.

At this point, there’s an entire genre of movies about pop musicians before they got famous. The best of them is “Backbeat” (1994), which told the story of the Beatles in their raw Hamburg, Germany, prime with volcanic authenticity. “Greetings from Tim Buckley” (2012) squeezed a bauble of indie-rock essence out of Jeff Buckley’s journey to embrace his father’s legacy. But “England Is Mine” just feels like a stopgap movie made by people who couldn’t afford to get the rights to the Smiths’ catalogue. The poster calls it a meditation “on becoming Morrissey,” but it would be more accurate to describe it as a movie about waiting around dejectedly until there’s nothing left to do but become Morrissey. In the final scene, set in 1982, Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston) knocks on Steven’s front door, and it’s hard not to feel that the film you really want to see is just getting started.

By Jess • January 15, 2017 • 0 Comments

Gardening, mechanical creatures, library books and neighborly friction figure in a magic-tinged fable starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Tom Wilkinson.
In the gently comic, slightly tart fairy tale This Beautiful Fantastic, a novice gardener named Bella Brown learns to till the soil, to weed and plant and prune. Leading a pitch-perfect cast, Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay plays this “oddest of oddballs,” an orphan whose care as an infant was handled briefly by ducks. As the earth gradually yields to the grownup Bella’s newfound know-how, none of what transpires is earth-shattering, but it’s the way it happens, with the simplicity and sense of wonder of an old-fashioned picture book, that makes her story, however wispy, delightful.

Writer-director Simon Aboud doesn’t push the quirk factor; even when the narrative is at its most playful, he keeps it rooted to a lived-in reality. Mining familiar territory with an earnest clarity, he shapes a mild yet winning fantasy about hearts opening and friendships blooming. The movie should travel well as it books international dates after its North American festival premiere.

In a lead role that had been pegged to Carey Mulligan and Felicity Jones at various times during the production’s development, Findlay combines fresh-faced innocence and a nascent streak of inner steel as Bella, a creature of rigid habit whose world changes after her crotchety neighbor puts her in his sites.

Tom Wilkinson’s Alfie Stephenson is one of those engagingly acerbic misanthropes who are easier to find in literature and film than in life. He delivers crisp, irked assessments of the young woman next door, first in brief bits of voiceover narration and then face-to-face. (His eloquently cutting remarks probably played a key role in the screenplay’s selection for the Brit List, a U.K. version of the Black List of unproduced scripts.) Alfie’s chief complaint: Bella’s criminal neglect of her rented house’s backyard, which has turned into an overgrown English jungle of tangled greenery. Outraged by the abomination, he snitches on her to her landlord, who gives Bella a month to tidy up the garden or be evicted.

From an insult-spewing nemesis, Alfie gradually, and predictably, morphs into a source of inspiration for Bella, goading her to push past her fear of flora and embrace the horticultural blank slate at hand — a smart enticement to a young librarian who dreams of writing and illustrating children’s books but hasn’t yet figured out what she wants to say.

The bargaining chip between them is Vernon, the housekeeper and talented cook who leaves Alfie’s employ for the kinder, if less well-heeled, domain of Bella’s cottage. Played by Andrew Scott (Moriarty on Sherlock) with the right mix of vulnerability and gusto, Vernon is a widowed dad who agrees to resume cooking meals for his demanding former boss if Alfie will help Bella keep her home by sharing his gardening expertise.

Vernon’s culinary exuberance and Alfie’s lush, colorful, quasi-wild garden (played by that of London-based garden designer Peter Beardsley) embolden Bella and chip away at her penchant for orderliness. So too does sweetly bumbling inventor Billy Trantor (Jeremy Irvine), who frequents her workplace and puts Bella at odds with the comically imperious head librarian (Anna Chancellor) — a woman who’s given to spelling out admonishments on a letter board and sometimes resorts to a microphone to amplify her demand for silence. In turn, Bella inspires them too, although the character remains a tad too passive and reactive.

The highlight among Billy’s handcrafted mechanical critters — and one of the most memorable elements in a film that isn’t the stuff of deep, lasting impressions — is a metallic bird named Luna, scruffily elegant and powered by moonlight. (Its brief flight was manipulated by puppeteers who were then digitally painted out, in the film’s sole CGI sequence.)

Though it has been compared to Amelie, the movie has a leaner sensibility, never lapsing into froufrou. Aboud, whose feature debut was the 2012 crime thriller Comes a Bright Day, elicits an unforced energy, with a touch of the elegiac, in the performances and every other aspect of This Beautiful Fantastic. In Ian Fulcher’s costumes, Alexandra Walker’s interiors and Anne Nikitin’s score, the whimsy of the ephemeral proceedings is undeniable but understated. Alfie’s cherished flowers have an abstract radiance in cinematographer Mike Eley’s out-of-focus close-ups; in more straightforward fashion, the intensifying connections among Bella and her new friends have a radiance too.

By Jess • March 14, 2016 • 0 Comments

Director Robert Icke has become the great hope of British theater. The 29-year-old has a rare talent for tapping into a text’s driving forces. He staged “1984” not as a possible future, but as a warning from history. Last year’s “Oresteia,” compressed and contemporized, felt like a box-set thriller. Now, bringing the same scrutiny to “Uncle Vanya” at the Almeida Theater, he gives us Chekhov in high-definition, its every texture exposed; a study in stasis. His meticulousness might hinder the play’s momentum and, for all its lit-crit insights, it’s more moral than it is moving. Small bother, though: This is rich, wry and wise – level-up stuff.

Like playwright Annie Baker, whose version of “Uncle Vanya” played New York’s Soho Rep in 2012, Icke gives Chekhov a contemporary, colloquial update, slowing stage time to something more like life. The names are anglicized – Vanya is Uncle John (Paul Rhys), sometimes Johnny — although it’s not specifically set in England. “To leave them in Russian,” the director’s note explains, “would be to make strange that which Chekhov intended ordinary.”

This is Icke’s way: He finds pinpoint images that pull the play into the present — earrings on middle-aged men, or a young woman (Sonya, played by “Downton Abbey” alum Jessica Brown Findlay) dressed in shabby mens’ shirts. He stays faithful to the original but stretches it all a bit further, upping its contrast, reactivating its drama. Astrov and Yelena don’t just kiss, they rip one another’s clothes off and roll about on the floor.

You see the play afresh and, moreover, in full. At three and a half hours (three 10 minute intervals keep us alert), Icke’s version gives each interaction its due. Abstract ideas – age, beauty, time, work, love – glide past one another like orbiting planets. It really is profound, heaving with life.

On Hildegard Bechtler’s slow-revolve of a wooden set – always moving, but going nowhere – there’s a sleepy atmosphere. People sit and read newspapers, toy with Rubik’s Cubes, tune guitars. Everything’s unhurried. Nothing’s urgent. Leaving on call, Tobias Menzies’ doctor puts his watch back on, as if time, here, were irrelevant. Ian Dickinson’s soundscape highlights the silence. Wood creaks, rain falls, an airplane whirs overhead.

Out of this emerges a study of inaction: the ways we waste time and the ways time wastes us. John and Sonya bury themselves in work – but, as the eco-friendly doctor says, “God only knows what our real work is.” Icke peppers proceedings with images of disrepair: guitars that detune, roofs that spring leaks. Furniture piles up on Bechtler’s set until, without anyone noticing, there are too many rugs and too many chairs. It’s the exact opposite of Michael’s beloved forests, disappearing bit by bit, year on year.

Rhys plays the title role as a man incapable of imposing himself. He’s too soft for it – the burr of his beard matches that of his voice. Life’s held him back – through grief, labor or simply personality – and he’s held back from life. When John notes, “I could have been a Schopenhauer or Dostoyevsky,” you almost believe him.

Icke’s great on the agonies of middle-age. Rhys shows us the ache of 47 year-old knees, but Hilton McRae (as the professor) suggests the tortures ahead – gout, breathlessness, worse. Even Elena (Vanessa Kirby), at 27, thinks herself “old.” The play’s attuned to the particular darkness of men, and the soothing presence of women. The lonesomeness at the play’s heart becomes unmissable, as three drunken fortysomethings howl Bowie songs at the moon.

The production is exquisitely acted. McRae catches the pomp of a man who’ll use a wooden chair as a lectern in his own sitting room, while Menzies finds the underlying oddity of Astrov, a darkness that surfaces like a long-range submarine. Brown Findlay’s Sonya, so in want of a decent conditioner and a confidence boost, is quite wrenching to watch, so entirely and so hopelessly in love, while Kirby is a superlative Elena: lithe, fickle, hypocritical, shallow and yet always sympathetic. It’s a performance that confirms her as the outstanding stage actress of her generation, capable of the most unexpected choices. Fumbling with Astrov, she gets her head stuck in her jumper – for all her outward ease, she’s as clumsily human as any of them.

However, Icke asks us to analyze these people, not feel for them. Its slowness prevents momentum; its constant significance, credibility. Icke’s knowingness, though amusing, can get in the way.

His sincerity can clear a path though. At the end, Michael holds up a globe and lays a finger on Africa. The heat, he says, must be unbearable: “Now, I mean.” It pulls us back into the present; a direct accusation. Their inaction is all of ours.

By Jess • April 28, 2014 • 0 Comments