Paul Reynolds is a Gatsby-like figure: owner of a magnificent house, the host of great parties, and a collector of interesting people. He persuades Lizzie Thomas, a secretary at a local estate agent's, to come and work for him as his assistant, to bring some order to his chaos. He inspires her with his enthusiasm and imagination, and frustrates her with his apparent carelessness and destructiveness, which culminates in her calling the police as one of his parties is attacked by local troublemakers, seemingly with his tacit approval. But their paths are destined to cross again and again as Lizzie, with the help of some of the people that she met at Paul's house, rises through the changing landscape of corporate Britain. This is the tale of a meaningful and powerful relationship that isn't a love story; it's about those rare people who profoundly influence and shape our lives.
Large canvas, beautiful to look at, plenty to think about
This piece seems to have divided the audience and critics. We have seen and heard more negative reviews than positive ones.
We thought it was a very interesting and enjoyable piece. As so often with Poliakoff, he creates characters who don't behave as you expect them to. They infuriate and they surprise you.
In this epic piece, spanning some 20 years (early eighties to early naughties)Poliakoff examines themes of business, friendships and survival in a fast-changing world.
Crocodiles are an interesting metaphor for survival and coping with change/trauma.
So are friends, both the loyal and the relatively fair-weather variety. Both types are on display here.
Drama about business is usually horribly infuriating because the playwright has little or no insight into how business really works. Similarly technology. Poliakoff understands business and technology far better than most writers.
Of course the piece simplifies and takes positions on these issues - who wants a 20 parter on such subjects - but the piece works excellently well as a sub 2 hour film for TV.
Several critics said that they "just don't get it" with this piece. I feel sorry for them if that is really the case. Perhaps most critics, like most writers, have little understanding of business and/or technology.
The acting is excellent - Damien Lewis (everywhere these days) and Jodhi May predictably good. A few cameos for old favourites too.
The cinematography is just stunning - Poliakoff is probably now at the very top of his game in this aspect of his work.
It's big canvas stuff, it is truly beautiful to look at and it leaves you plenty to think about and talk about afterwards.
We need more of this quality of stuff on TV and cinema please!! And this piece will last. Some of those who "don't get it" just now will, in a few years time, be hailing it as a classic and repeating it for decades to come. It's that sort of piece.
Reviewed by paul2001sw-15 / 10
Nothing is illuminated
Stephen Polliakoff's films are always interesting, even when they're not actually very good, because Polliakoff himself is interested in things that few other contemporary writers and directors are: time (he likes to tell his stories slowly) and space (they unwind in beautiful and unusual places). Unfortuantly, the specific content is often less interesting than the way that he explores it: the world he paints is aesthetically delightful, but sometimes doesn't resemble the real world very closely; 'Friends and Crocodiles', for example, is not his only film about a rich man surrounding himself with eccentric friends, in a way that seems more necessary for the purpose of the drama, than it does plausible. And this particular film is also let down by some clunky expositional dialogue (for example, when the heroine gets a new job, someone feels the need to explain that her new firm is "one of the country's largest companies"), a paper-thin satire of modern business practices, and the lack of chemistry between her character and her millionaire patron. Alan Rickman, who played a similar millionaire in his earlier film "Close My Eyes", had the charisma to pull the role off; Damian Lewis, by contrast, is flat in this movie. One weakness of both stories in the Polliakoff's tendency to centre his dramas on false (or at least, irrelevant) dichotomies, particularly that between new technology and aristocratic artifacts; but both his worlds are unreal, gorgeous and belong to the moneyed elite; I find it hard to draw any meaningful lessons from their pseudo-conflict. I suppose you don't watch Polliakoff for pure social realism, rather for the imagery as striking as shafts of light. But light has to illuminate something: in this film, it's not that clear what that something is supposed to be.
Reviewed by superman96310 / 10
Original, thought provoking and inspiring
I honestly thought that this was one of the greatest films I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Is it just me or are the general public getting less intelligent as I get older? It is true that in this film not everything is handed on a plate to the viewer, however, for me, this is what makes it a complete breath of fresh air. I'm quite bored with having every intricate detail of stories and characters in modern films served up to me as if I was completely mindless. This film leaves the viewer to do some thinking for a change and as part of the process it challenges their perspectives and values. We are then left with questions not only of the film but also of ourselves, which is exactly where we are supposed to be. It is is original, thought provoking and takes us back to the old art of story telling at its best.