Boogie Woogie review

Wow! That could be a Tracy Emin-like character! Look! That’s a real Damien Hirst! Zap! That might be based on Sarah Lucas! Kapow! That art-collector, could he be based on Mr Saatchi? And that’s quite enough exclamation marks for one review. As you’ve gathered by now Boogie Woogie is set in the mad, bad world of Brit Art – the mad artists, the slimy collectors, the respectable old fans who refuse to sell, the unhinged, insecure agents.

An impressive cast has been collected together here, but it’s all so difficult to care about these self-centred people. In fact, the narrative spirals out in so many directions, with so many characters, the film that most comes to mind is Love Actually – but relax, this is nowhere near that bad. It’s just full of people looking mightily pleased with themselves but constantly looking over their shoulder worried about missing the next big thing.

Danny Huston is the central character, an art dealer called Art – I kid you not – who is constantly promising his rich clients the impossible and introducing them to young British artists. These include Elaine (Winstone), a video artist who makes films of her lesbian encounters and arguments with fragile agent Dewey (Cumming). Gillian Anderson is hopelessly miscast as a rich lady who lunches at the expense of her millionaire hubby Bob (Starsgard) and collects young artists as much as their work – she’s too young to play a woman of a certain age.

Meanwhile, the art world is rife with rumours about the imminent sale of Piet Mondrian’s masterpiece Boogie Woogie, but its owners, the ageing Alfred (Lee) and daughter Alfreda (Lumley), aren’t selling – or are they? There is also a sub-plot about the various glamorous assistants hired at the art firm by Art who all want to open galleries of their own, but it’s all too tedious to go into in much detail.
The trouble of assembling a cast as large as this is the quality is as variable as Picasso’s output. Lee and Lumley are fine – it’s good to see the Gurkhas’ champion actually acting – but Heather Graham and Huston are as wooden as ever. Huston’s affected laugh had me chewing my own hand off by the end. It’s knowing, self-reverential and frankly rather dull, yet there are a couple of scenes worth hanging around for. Maybe Damien Hirst should have directed it – it might have been awful but it would not have been this flat.

Boogie Woogie at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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