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by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 14, 2019

It's been over 40 years since Diane Keaton won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work as the titular character in "Annie Hall," but after sitting through her latest film, "Hampstead," it seems like she is still playing the same part. But now this slightly bohemian woman with relationship issues — still wearing floppy hats that cover her ears — seems like she has gotten older without growing up, and is now far more annoying than cute.

In the film's wafer-thin plot, Keaton plays Emily, a poverty stricken American widow living in a rather grand apartment building on the edge of London's glorious Hampstead Heath. With no visible source of income she is a volunteer at a local charity shop, and otherwise tries her best to avoid the wives of rather pretentious neighbors who are always in the middle of organizing some event or another.

Opposite her apartment building, and sitting on the edge of the heath, is a derelict hospital. It's a prime piece of real estate, on which developers want build a spanking new block of luxury apartments. The grounds are also home to Donald (Brendan Gleeson), a scruffy old vagrant who built his own shack there almost 20 years ago and has been using the lake as a source of food.

Emily's neighbors, led by Fiona (the wonderful Lesley Manville), are all for the apartment block being built; even though it will spoil part of the famous heath, it will help rocket housing prices even more. It will also make a vast profit for Fiona's developer husband. However, Emily strikes up an unlikely friendship with Donald, which turns into an even more implausible romance, so she ends up by helping him win the right to stay in his home and stop the development.

It's all very predictable, and so extremely pedestrian, that one feels positively sorry for the very talented Gleason, who looks as uncomfortable as a fish out of water in this chick-lit drama.

Keaton looking like Annie Hall's grandmother seems more at home in this piece of fluff, but really the only one who actually survives this movie with any dignity is the village of Hampstead. You can see why this stunning corner of London is favoured by the city's literati and celebrities; this is the only place that has had a two-time Academy Award Best Actress as their local Member of Parliament.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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