Director: Ol Parker
Cast: Dakota Fanning, Jeremy Irvine, Paddy Considine, Olivia Williams
Running Time: 103 min
Release: 19th Sept
Exploitation movies can be separated into two categories; the super-fun kind that might be produced by Roger Corman and could feature zombies, sex and/or violence. And then there’s the other kind; that takes on a deadly serious and sensitive subject and uses it as a vessel to make a shallow, manipulative film. Now is Good is the second kind.
Dakota Fanning plays Tessa, a terminally-ill teenager who has just decided to cease her chemotherapy treatment. She’s written a list on her bedroom wall of things she wants to do before she dies; the most pressing of which seems to be losing her virginity. But when she meets handsome, sensitive neighbour Adam (Jeremy Irvine), things get a little more complicated…
Films about terminal illness are incredibly tricky to do. How do you tell a story about dying young without coming across as mawkish or insensitive? Some films, like Philadelphia, expand the scope and story to include courtroom drama and social issues. Others, such as 50/50, try to mix comedy in with the pathos. However, without insight or warmth, the terminal illness film can feel sentimental and heavy-handed. Most of them don’t escape the TV movie ghetto, but presumably thanks to the profile of Ms Fanning, Now is Good is playing in a cinema near you instead of on TV3’s weeknight schedule.
The biggest issue with the film is Tessa herself. Anyone suffering what she’s suffering is entitled to be angry and rude, but the film might have been more poignant if she wasn’t such a colossal pain in the arse. I struggle to think of one character who she doesn’t plainly and needlessly insult, including her kindly doctor, her incredibly dedicated father (Paddy Considine), her best friend or her lovely nurse.
Tessa has pearls of supposed wisdom to give to her peers and grown-ups, most of which stem from the “I just tell it like it is” school of rudeness. We’re expected to appreciate her honesty and be inspired by her insight, and to see all others for the phonies they are: That doesn’t happen.
The film is also hindered by Fanning’s breathy, meandering English accent. Wrestling with this dialect robs the actress of any inflection she usually has, and sounds distractingly like a cross between a Little Britain teen, an old-school BBC newsreader and (post-elocution lesson) Eliza Doolittle.
Along her journey, Tessa and her peers recreate a Living Life to the Fullest greatest hits compilation, with such singles as Making Snow Angels, Running from Grown-Ups and Making a Scene at a Party. And who can forget that old favourite, Midnight Swimming? (That last one is cinematic shorthand for “I’m a free spirit!”)
At this stage, it would only be fair to say that Olivia Williams and especially Paddy Considine give gorgeous, credible and big-hearted performances as Tessa’s parents. It takes a mammoth talent like Considine’s to look at this character with love in his eyes, so kudos to you, Paddy.