Charlie Bubbles (Albert Finney) was tired. He was rich beyond his wildest dreams but like they say, money and fame doesn’t always bring the happiness. He’d started to realise the people around him were leeches, bad influences, money grabbers or just plain annoying. Actually, to Charlie, everyone and everything was annoying. The manner people spoke to him, the mundane world of bankers and solicitors, the reporters and the industry always hounding him. You know what, even Mrs. Noseworthy (Margery Mason) his housekeeper treats him with contempt. Charlie wasn’t happy.
Maybe an almighty food fight in a posh estashlesment and a few drinks with his good friend Smokey Pickles (Colin Blakely) would cheer him up? Thing is ole Smokey is a ravenous alcoholic and completely barking mad! Maybe his American intern/secretary Eliza (Liza Minnelli) would lift his spirits? She’s young, enthusiastic, high energy. She’s sweet and means well but you guessed it, she’s also annoying to our Charlie. Perhaps a road trip up north to his ex-wife Lottie Bubbles (Billie Whitelaw) to reconnect with his son Jack (Timothy Garland) would help kick start some good feelings to see him through the gloom?
You see Charlie was born and breed on the poor side of Manchester. Now he resides in a mansion in the posh part of London. He even has servants for pete’s sake! Charlie had a lucky break with a series of successful books, some becoming films. His fame made everyone want a piece of him. His sadness consumed him. He was numb, tired and broken. Writer’s block and disdain for the whole of the “show bizness” machine and everyone around him. What was Charlie to do?
A road trip up the M6 motorway in his gold Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III Convertible with it’s personalised number plate CB 1E and Eliza to keep him company. A short rest in a Little Chef, pick up a hitchhiker and a sightseeing drive round his broken down town of Salford. Book a stadium box for his boy at Old Trafford to see Manchester United play and see how his ex-wife is holding up.
Will the prodigal son’s return help our Charlie’s mood? Can Charlie escape bumping into loud obnoxious people everywhere he goes? Will he be able to flee this deep depression and break his boredom?
A few things I’ve learnt
- This is the first and only film directed by Albert Finney. With it not being well received at the box office after what sounds like a troublesome production time. It sounds like he thought “bugger that” and concentrated on the acting. Though he did get involved with co-directing a TV movie about the South African anti-apartheid leader Steve Biko in The Biko Inquest in 1984.
- Charlie Bubbles was written by playwright and screenwriter Shelagh Delaney who had a hit with 1961s coming-of-age drama A Taste Of Honey
- Billie Whitelaw and Albert Finney would later work together again in the quirky neo-noir comedy drama, I did a post on, called Gumshoe in 1971.
- This was Liza Minnelli’s first big screen debut. I’ve read a few negative reviews on her part in the film but I really enjoyed her spontaneous free spirit as the travelling American. She’s all wide eyed and fancy free.
- Colin Blakely always delivers a great performance however small his part maybe. He was brilliant in 1963s The Informers with Nigel Patrick too.
Wrapping it up.
The poster makes it looks like it’s a sex drama or something but it couldn’t be further removed from that idea. If anything our Charlie can’t be arsed with it and sits back and thinks of? Well nothing to be honest. Charlie Bubbles will for sure not be for everyone. However if you like slow paced thoughtful dramas with a dash of comedy and a road trip thrown in you’ll be in for a treat. It’s sad to think what else Albert Finney could of directed had he pursued more down that path. The film features a wonderful historic view as we travel around the different social class backgrounds of 60’s England. It’s quite the marvelous captured time capsule.
There’s also a collection of perfect set pieces expertly set out throughout the film. None so brilliant as Charlies home CCTV system that adds a surreal tone as he sits, slumped, drunk, watching his mansion invaded from room by room. The use of colour is almost hitting on arthouse at times, as many frames are filled with glorious red and well thought out camera angles. Much emotion shines out from just small scenes. Like the petrol station glares from strangers, the rundown industrial town and old folk of Salford. The chance meeting with his Dads old friend and worst of all the isolation of the, all glass windowed, stadium box at the football match. It’s a wonderful, deep film with enough little dashes of humour to stop you being too dragged down into the pit of despair.
I can see myself watching this one again soon, or at least revisiting some of the key scenes. Is it one you have seen? Did you like it? Or if you see it, maybe pop on back and let me know your thoughts. Don’t worry I won’t serve you a dome of raw beef with an uncooked egg on top* for breakfast, I promise.
Thanks for dropping in the wolf lair. Fist bump.
* I find out it’s called beef tartare. Umm I’d probably give it a go but surely it be nicer cooked with a side of bacon!