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Lily James leads a stylish return to Manderley: BRIAN VINER reviews Rebecca

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lily james leads a stylish return to manderley brian viner reviews rebecca

Rebecca (Cinemas, 12A)

Verdict: Revisiting a classic 

Rating: rating showbiz 3

Daphne du Maurier did not write her haunting 1938 novel Rebecca expecting it to be adapted for the screen — but it wasn’t long, as she put it herself, before film people were ‘sniffing around’.

The sniffing has never really stopped. Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated movie was released within two years of the book’s publication and du Maurier, who hated what Hitchcock did with her earlier novel Jamaica Inn, was delighted with it. 

So were the Academy Award voters, who anointed it Best Picture.

So in a way it’s surprising how many screen versions have followed down the decades, given the long shadow cast by the 1940 film. 

But then it’s a great gothic tale, and that stroke of literary genius — allowing a dead character to loom so large in what, for all its creepiness, is really not a ghost story — is plainly irresistible to film-makers. 

It succeeds, as all good Rebecca adaptations should, in reminding us of its great British literary lineage (above, Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter and Lily James as Mrs de Winter)

It succeeds, as all good Rebecca adaptations should, in reminding us of its great British literary lineage (above, Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter and Lily James as Mrs de Winter)

On TV I remember seeing both Anna Massey and Diana Rigg playing Mrs Danvers, the forbidding housekeeper mordantly obsessed with her late mistress, and now, in Ben Wheatley’s new film, it is the turn of an actress of similar class and heft, Kristin Scott Thomas.

Armie Hammer is jolly good as rich, dashing, screwed-up Maxim de Winter, looking in his finery very much to the manor born (as indeed he is, being the great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer).

And Lily James — who has also just starred in her own private remake of Roman Holiday, if you’ve been reading the news pages — plays the diffident second Mrs de Winter (otherwise unnamed, another du Maurier masterstroke).

She is a pretty but mousey lady’s companion swept off her feet in between-the-wars Monte Carlo and then back to Manderley, Max’s fabulous Cornish estate, where she is both intimidated and eclipsed by the enduring influence of Rebecca, his beautiful, charismatic first wife, who died in mysterious circumstances a year before.

I sat down to watch wondering whether James, Hammer and Scott Thomas would themselves be eclipsed by their Oscar-nominated counterparts in the original film: Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson. 

But actually, this is a stylish and generally irreproachable telling of the story, cleaving closer to the novel than Hitchcock’s version did.

It succeeds, as all good Rebecca adaptations should, in reminding us of the great British literary lineage to which the story belongs. The kinship with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is unmistakable.

There is another Jane more directly involved. Entertainingly, Jane Goldman’s screenplay makes the most of the early Cote d’Azur setting, enabling Ann Dowd to ham it up gloriously as ghastly Mrs Van Hopper, the Lily James character’s snobbish employer. 

James, by contrast, dials her performance down rather than up, as a young woman whose sudden material security breeds nothing but emotional insecurity. She does a fine job.

Should you watch on a television screen, you might find it hard not to think of her more assertive Lady Rose in the similar-period Downton Abbey, dealing with another stern but rather less complicated housekeeper in Mrs Hughes.

For the same reason, it is a challenge to look at those stirring Cornish cliffscapes and not expect Ross Poldark, frowning dishily, to thunder into view on a stallion. 

Come to think of it, in that limited but I think significant on-screen band of lower-class women unexpectedly made chatelaines of households along the Cornish coast, Ross’s wife Demelza could have shown the second Mrs de Winter a thing or two. 

In Ben Wheatley's new film Mrs Danvers, the forbidding housekeeper mordantly obsessed with her late mistress, is played by Kristin Scott Thomas (pictured with Lily James)

In Ben Wheatley’s new film Mrs Danvers, the forbidding housekeeper mordantly obsessed with her late mistress, is played by Kristin Scott Thomas (pictured with Lily James) 

Still, this Rebecca needs to be judged on its own, not in the glow of other productions, nor really by comparison with Wheatley’s own back catalogue, which includes the riotous 2012 comedy-horror Sightseers. This is untypical, his most conventional film yet.

In a way, that is disappointing. It could certainly be more daring, less forgettable. But there is plenty to admire, not least a top-quality supporting cast including Keeley Hawes, Sam Riley and in a cameo as a batty granny, yet another Jane — Lapotaire.

Above all, I liked the way Scott Thomas makes Manderley’s housekeeper more human than we are used to seeing her. She is far from sympathetic but, beneath the icy demeanour, not so much boilingly psychotic as a psychological mess. 

It’s a distinctly modern interpretation, yet it does nothing to diminish the character’s stature as one of the screen’s great scene-stealers.

That is what Mrs Danvers has been for 80 years, and I’m happy to say that the wonderful Scott Thomas upholds the tradition.

Rebecca opens in cinemas today and is available on Netflix from October 21.

Soul (Disney+)

Verdict: Brilliant but baffling 

Rating: rating showbiz 3

Charlie Chaplin once said that comedy isn’t a man falling into an open manhole; it’s a man stepping carefully over a banana skin and then falling into an open manhole.

The clever people at Pixar, whose ingenuity Chaplin would surely have cherished, must have had this line in mind when they created the brilliant pre-titles sequence in Soul, which has been showing as part of the London Film Festival.

Joe Gardner, a middle-aged, African-American middle-school music teacher, voiced by Jamie Foxx, has been invited to play with a celebrated jazz quartet. He is cock-a-hoop.

So he goes skipping deliriously through the busy streets of New York, barely noticing a series of perilous near-misses. It’s his lucky day. Except it’s not. 

That open manhole does for him, and the next thing we know, his soul is ascending on a long conveyor belt to ‘The Great Beyond’.

That’s the cue for the film to become a kind of cinematic acid trip as assorted nebulous figures, rendered in surreal outline as if plucked from paintings by Miro, vie for control of Joe’s soul, which is represented as a sort of vaporous blob.

Pixar's Soul becomes a kind of cinematic acid trip as assorted nebulous figures vie for control of Joe's soul (pictured with 22), which is represented as a sort of vaporous blob

Pixar’s Soul becomes a kind of cinematic acid trip as assorted nebulous figures vie for control of Joe’s soul (pictured with 22), which is represented as a sort of vaporous blob

When blobby Joe escapes from the conveyor belt, he winds up in ‘The Great Before’, where unborn souls are prepared for deployment on earth. 

There, he is assigned to mentor the rebellious number 22 (Tina Fey), who was too much of a handful for those previously asked to guide her, including Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali and even the psychoanalyst Carl Jung.

All this is tricky enough for grown-ups to follow. Children won’t have an earthly what’s going on, so bear that in mind when it comes to Disney + on Christmas Day. 

Happily for everyone, the acid trip abates when Joe and 22 find their way to New York, aided by another ethereal character, voiced (splendidly) by Graham Norton.

There, Joe’s corporeal form is languishing on a life-support machine. His soul has only to re-enter his body and, bingo, he can still make his gig. Unfortunately, there is a mix-up. It’s 22 who re-animates Joe, while Joe’s soul enters a cat.

In many ways, all this is an adult sequel to 2015’s Inside Out, which was also directed by Pete Docter. Mostly, it’s about one man’s midlife crisis.

It swings between joyfully mesmerising and bizarrely baffling, and I couldn’t help wondering whether the trippy episodes last as long as they do because the animation is not as complex. Like everyone else during this pandemic, Pixar have had to readjust. 

In Walt Disney’s day it was an animators’ strike that forced him to cut corners, still conspicuous today when you watch Dumbo (1941). Maybe the coronavirus similarly influenced the making of this film.

It has certainly influenced the release plans. Disappointingly, Disney has chosen not to give it a theatrical outing — one more cruel thrust deep into cinema’s soul.

Soul opens on Disney + on Christmas Day.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Care homes are demanding mandatory testing of inspectors to prevent putting elderly ‘lives at risk’

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care homes are demanding mandatory testing of inspectors to prevent putting elderly lives at risk

Care homes are demanding mandatory testing of inspectors to prevent putting elderly ‘lives at risk’ after more than 100 reported coronavirus symptoms. 

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) had suspended inspections for five months in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

But last month the watchdog took the decision, sanctioned by the Department of Health, to redeploy inspectors.

The CQC, which employs around 1,300 inspectors, is set to launch 500 inspections over the next six weeks – but testing for those visiting care homes is not currently compulsory.

Care provides have fiercely criticised the move after it was estimated that 16,000 care home residents died with Covid-19 during the first wave of coronavirus. 

Care homes are demanding mandatory testing of inspectors to prevent putting elderly 'lives at risk' after more than 100 reported coronavirus symptoms (stock image)

Care homes are demanding mandatory testing of inspectors to prevent putting elderly ‘lives at risk’ after more than 100 reported coronavirus symptoms (stock image)

Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Sunday Telegraph revealed that more than 100 CQC inspectors reported Covid-19 symptoms or were forced to self-isolate.

It showed that during the period from March to October 20, 11 CQC staff tested positive for coronavirus which included six who were inspectors. 

A further 225 members of CQC staff, 103 of whom were inspectors, self-isolated as a precaution.

The report also showed that the watchdog had received one complaint in relation to its inspectors not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment during an inspection.

Care home managers have since called on the organisation to introduce mandatory testing for all inspectors as they insist that otherwise ‘lives will be put at risk’. 

The report also showed that the watchdog had received one complaint in relation to its inspectors not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment during an inspection (stock image)

The report also showed that the watchdog had received one complaint in relation to its inspectors not wearing appropriate personal protective equipment during an inspection (stock image)

Labour MP Barbara Keeley has since said that the data proved why it was now vital that inspectors were regularly tested in order to protect elderly lives.

She told The Independent: ‘On the basis of these numbers, inspectors may be potentially taking infections into care homes. Given the risk Covid-19 poses in care homes, this cannot be allowed to happen.

‘It’s just not acceptable that the inspectors are not being tested regularly… It is clear from these numbers that the only way for CQC inspections to resume in a safe manner is for all inspectors to have access to regular Covid-19 testing, even if they are asymptomatic.’

MailOnline has contacted the Care Quality Commission for comment. 

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Diary of political aide PETER CARDWELL reveals whats goes on in Westminster

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Six decades ago, we didn’t exist. But we spads have become increasingly influential in Whitehall, playing a strange role for Ministers, somewhere between friend, gatekeeper, adviser and general dogsbody armed with a Snickers bar (in case of a meltdown needing a sugar hit).

As Housing Secretary James Brokenshire’s media spad, I had to advise him on the regular rounds of interviews – which could cover anything from NHS care beds to Love Island evictions – as well as reminding him to have a pee beforehand. And, of course, to be tuned into all the Westminster gossip.

The Coffey grinder

A colleague who got invited to the Brit Awards contacted me the morning after about the antics of the Work and Pensions Secretary: ‘The image that will be burned into the pinholes of my eyes – perhaps for ever – is that of Therese Coffey attempting to twerk to Stormzy.’ As a result, poor Therese has been nicknamed the ‘Twerk and Pensions Secretary’.

Theresa’s one unhappy camper

At one reception at No 10, a Tory MP brought the eccentric actress Su Pollard as his plus-one. The then PM, Theresa May, endured Pollard shouting, ‘Hi-de-hi, Theresa!’ at her. I’m sure, in that moment, Mrs May felt the decades at the grindstone of political life were all worth it.

At one reception at No 10, a Tory MP brought the eccentric actress Su Pollard as his plus-one. The then PM, Theresa May, endured Pollard shouting, ‘Hi-de-hi, Theresa!’ at her. I’m sure, in that moment, Mrs May felt the decades at the grindstone of political life were all worth it

At one reception at No 10, a Tory MP brought the eccentric actress Su Pollard as his plus-one. The then PM, Theresa May, endured Pollard shouting, ‘Hi-de-hi, Theresa!’ at her. I’m sure, in that moment, Mrs May felt the decades at the grindstone of political life were all worth it

The snarking of the Hunt

I asked Labour’s Tristram Hunt what he saw as his role as a constituency MP. He said: ‘It is to try to convince people that Stoke isn’t a s***hole.’ At least he was honest.

Take that, Barlow!

At the heart of No 10 is ‘Switch’ –- the switchboard – renowned for its calm, assured operators who connect Prime Ministers to anyone in the world. Switch has the number of almost anyone the PM could possibly want to contact. Very occasionally, though, it makes mistakes. Once, a No 10 official asked to be put through to the then Housing Minister Gavin Barwell, but the operator misheard. Take That frontman Gary Barlow was slightly baffled to receive a call about housing policy.

A smarter class of reader

James Brokenshire’s wife Cathy rang me about an interview James was about to do with the Daily Mail. Was it OK to wear jeans for the photo? No, I said quickly, it is better to go slightly smarter as the Mail’s readership would expect something a little dressier.

My text that cost £387m

One Friday morning, I was working at home in my jogging bottoms, happily tapping away at my laptop and two phones. Incidentally, two groups of people always work on two phones: spads and drug-dealers.

I was called by a journalist on The Times and asked about a rumour that housing giant Persimmon was about to post profits of £1 billion. After some digging, I texted a comment saying the company had not always acted entirely properly in regard to the Government’s Help To Buy scheme for first-time buyers.

This led to a story saying ‘Britain’s most profitable housebuilder faces being stripped of its right to sell Help To Buy homes after allegations of poor standards.’

On Monday morning, when the financial markets opened – and largely the result of my text – Persimmon’s worth fell by £387 million in just one day.

Ironing out the wrinkles

One Minister who sat around the Cabinet table told her diary secretary to block out an afternoon once a month so she could go to her doctor in Harley Street for Botox. ‘The problem,’ the spad told me, ‘is when she grins heavily, you can see the filler accumulate above her temples.’

Rebel without a pause

Some Downing Street spads had a sweepstake on how long Greg Clark, then Business Secretary, would speak continuously in Cabinet meetings. His record? Twenty-six minutes without a pause. In a 90-minute meeting.

Boris owes me a big debt

My first encounter with Boris Johnson was when I was on work experience at The Spectator and he was editor. He sent me to buy him a coffee, saying: ‘And get one for yourself, too.’

My first encounter with Boris Johnson was when I was on work experience at The Spectator and he was editor. He sent me to buy him a coffee, saying: ‘And get one for yourself, too’. The coins he gave me didn’t even cover the full cost of his latte. Boris still owes me £2.35, 15 years on

My first encounter with Boris Johnson was when I was on work experience at The Spectator and he was editor. He sent me to buy him a coffee, saying: ‘And get one for yourself, too’. The coins he gave me didn’t even cover the full cost of his latte. Boris still owes me £2.35, 15 years on

The coins he gave me didn’t even cover the full cost of his latte. Boris still owes me £2.35, 15 years on.

The rainbow warrior

While in the Northern Ireland Office, I worked with Junior Minister Kris Hopkins on advancing the cause of same-sex civil marriage there, against resistance from the Democratic Unionist Party. During one meeting, the blunt Yorkshireman said: ‘It’s probably about bloody time I got on my big rainbow underpants and told the DUP what’s what on equal marriage.’ When Kris left the department, I bought him such a pair on eBay for £2.99. I don’t know if he ever wore them.

The last Post-It

It is traditional for Treasury Ministers to leave a light-hearted Post-It note for their successors.

Liam Byrne’s message after the 2008 banking crash and subsequent recession infamously read: ‘Dear Chief Secretary, I am afraid there is no money. Kind regards and good luck.’

Previously, civil servants had spotted a series of other notes that Byrne (nicknamed ‘Baldemort’ in tribute to the Harry Potter villain) had left around his desk to motivate himself.

They included ‘Get Army fit’, ‘Have my own library (like Reagan)’ and ‘Buy ski chalet in France’.

Red Ed’s jibes are no joke

I was reliably informed two jokes were cut out of Ed Miliband’s first conference speech as Labour leader about the then Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles being overweight. The first – ‘the party never worries about losing Eric Pickles, because wherever he goes he always leaves a trail of crumbs’ – you could probably just about get away with. But ‘Eric Pickles – the only Cabinet Minister visible from space’ would have been a jibe too far.

Shocking behaviour

Protection officers get to know Ministers well, but personal relationships such as the one in the BBC1 drama Bodyguard are strictly prohibited. Saying that, one spad sent a cheeky Valentine’s Day card to a protection officer who had worked with their principal, including the line: ‘No need to fire your Taser to make me go weak at the knees.’

A whiff of offence

During the Election campaign of 2017, one volunteer worker had a particularly strong reaction around Theresa May’s chief of staff Fiona Hill – her perfume brought her out in hives, so she had to retreat every time Fiona came near. The volunteer never felt that she could explain to Fiona the reason she kept stepping away.

Oven-ready scandal

The eight-day media maelstrom that we called ‘Ovengate’ began when a small Sunday Times news item remarked that James and Cathy own two double ovens. By Tuesday, memes were flying thick and fast on Twitter, and James decided to lean into the ludicrous, and increasingly funny, reaction. He tweeted a picture of himself with a Victoria sponge cake with the line: ‘Amazing what you can rustle up! Maybe some more hot potatoes next! #TwoOvens.’

A very boor show

The key thing, in victory and defeat, is to be graceful and magnanimous with your opponents. Labour’s Emily Thornberry was neither. Despite the exit poll in 2017 which suggested the Tory Government was going to be re-elected, she strutted on to the set at Sky News, churlishly sneering at us. Cathy Brokenshire can’t stand Thornberry and, believe me, when you’ve lost Cathy you’re doing really badly.

Something’s brewing

Whenever Theresa May was on a factory visit, it was our job to check there was a supply of the correct tea bags (Earl Grey, since you ask).

Whenever Theresa May was on a factory visit, it was our job to check there was a supply of the correct tea bags (Earl Grey, since you ask)

 Whenever Theresa May was on a factory visit, it was our job to check there was a supply of the correct tea bags (Earl Grey, since you ask)

Conference pairs

At one Liberal Democrat party conference, I remember the drunken lover of a senior Lib Dem MP pitching up wearing just a vest and shorts, looking like some sort of relic from a Culture Club gig. I also remember a female friend, who would have been about 25 at the time, telling me about the difficult experience of extracting herself from a conversation with a famous broadcaster at least 40 years her senior whose intentions were not to discuss the contents of Nick Clegg’s speech.

Back to school, Minister

Suspecting that while being interviewed by sixth-formers, newly appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley might be tested on some rudimentary general knowledge, I told her the FAT LAD acronym I’d learned in primary school to remember the six counties of Northern Ireland – Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim, Down.

As you leak it

At a mandatory 7.55am gathering of all spads in Downing Street – one of the first of the Johnson administration – Dominic Cummings told us in no uncertain terms: ‘If you leak, you will be marched from your desk by the head of security at your department, your pass will be taken off you and you will be sacked. You have no rights.’ Of course, these sentiments were immediately leaked and appeared in The Times the very next day...

At a mandatory 7.55am gathering of all spads in Downing Street – one of the first of the Johnson administration – Dominic Cummings told us in no uncertain terms: ‘If you leak, you will be marched from your desk by the head of security at your department, your pass will be taken off you and you will be sacked. You have no rights.’ Of course, these sentiments were immediately leaked and appeared in The Times the very next day…

At a mandatory 7.55am gathering of all spads in Downing Street – one of the first of the Johnson administration – Dominic Cummings told us in no uncertain terms: ‘If you leak, you will be marched from your desk by the head of security at your department, your pass will be taken off you and you will be sacked. You have no rights.’

Of course, these sentiments were immediately leaked and appeared in The Times the very next day…

© Peter Cardwell, 2020

lThe Secret Life Of Special Advisers, by Peter Cardwell, is published by Biteback on Tuesday at £20. To order a copy for £17.60, including free UK delivery, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 before October 31.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Lily James’s character describes Dominic West’s character in upcoming movie

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lily jamess character describes dominic wests character in upcoming movie

Few who saw the photographs of them canoodling in Rome can doubt that Lily James looked impressed by Dominic West’s masculine charms.

Now the 31-year-old has spoken in glowing terms about the appeal of the character he plays in their new film.

The pair co-star in the BBC‘s upcoming adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit Of Love, which traces the romantic adventures of the free-spirited Linda Radlett between the two world wars. 

For his part, West appears as the bullying and eccentric Uncle Matthew.

Actress Lily James, 31 has spoken in glowing terms about the appeal of the character Dominic West plays in their new film

Actress Lily James, 31 has spoken in glowing terms about the appeal of the character Dominic West plays in their new film

In an interview with The Guardian published yesterday, but conducted before the dalliance in Rome, Ms James said she had known her co-star for ‘a really long time’ since they appeared together in a Shakespeare play a decade ago.

Speaking of his role in their latest venture, she added: ‘He’s a brilliant Uncle Matthew, another mad sort of character. 

I have a great line in it where I say, ‘Matthew is frightening and I disapprove of him, but I feel he sets the bar for English manhood.’ What a great line.’

When the photographs of their holiday antics first emerged, West staged an awkward photoshoot at his Wiltshire mansion with his wife, the Anglo-Irish aristocrat Catherine FitzGerald.

Lily James and Dominic West, 51, pictured together on a scooter in Rome earlier this month

Lily James and Dominic West, 51, pictured together on a scooter in Rome earlier this month 

The Wire actor, 51, later posted a handwritten note at the boundary of their property for photographers. It read: ‘Our marriage is strong and we’re very much still together. Thank you.’

Ms James, who last year split from former Doctor Who star Matt Smith, has since kept a low profile at her North London home.

In the interview, she says she spent the summer reading poetry and watching films.

Asked if she spent the time alone, she replied: ‘No comment.’

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