Today: February 26, 2024
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Elfie Hopkins

A cross between Miss Marple and the Big

Liebowski, stoned slacker, the improbably-named Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone)
smells something rotten when the local villagers start disappearing around the
same time as the glamorous and mysterious Gammon family move in next door.

 

Rich,
cultured and well-travelled, the Gammons seduce Elfie’s sleepy Welsh village
with their tales of exotic travel and adventure. Everyone loves them, admires them. But Elfie doesn’t trust them. They’re too nice.
Too charming.
Too…perfect. They’re just
too good to be true. Mum Isabelle
(Kate Magowan) is poised and cool,
an English Stepford Wife. Teenage
son Elliot (Will Payne) is a
sneering trendy with anger issues and a crossbow, cute daughter Ruby (Gwyneth Keyworth) dresses like a doll
and has a practically erotic relationship with her collection of samurai
swords. And there’s a hunger about handsome family patriarch
and boutique travel agent Charlie (Rupert
Evans
), a man defined by his very exotic appetites.

 

A
fantasist and aspiring private eye who for years has spied on the locals with
best friend Dylan (Aneurin Barnard),
Elfie’s first big investigation just may be her last…

 

Quirkier
than a costume party at David Lynch’s
house, you may want to like Elfie
Hopkins
a lot more than you actually do. Its certainly ambitious, it desperately wants to be unique,
to be an instant cult classic, but the tone is uneven, lurching from being a
laidback Twin Peaks-wannabee to
bloody backwoods horror by way of teen drama. It almost feels like one of those late-night episodes of Hollyoaks where they felt they could
get away with violence, sex and swearing.

 

Apparently
inspired by director and co-writer Ryan
Andrews
’ own childhood detective fantasies growing up in rural Wales, the
script feels clunky, the dialogue lacklustre; it doesn’t sing like the classic
film noirs it’s inspired by. It
lacks the wit of Veronica Mars, the
ingenuity of Rian Johnson’s
fantastic neo-noir Brick both of
whom have already done the teen detective pastiche of the hardboiled crime
genre and done it very well.

 

While
there are some good performances here, Rupert Evans silky smooth Charlie is
particularly good and Gwyneth Keyworth’s scary/cute Ruby (who looks like she’s
been hiding in Paloma Faith’s
dressing up box) is wonderful, bringing a sympathetic pathos to her lovelorn
cannibal teen, the film suffers from a severe case of bad casting. A charismatic actress, Jaime Winstone
doesn’t convince as a Welsh teen detective. It’s never made explicitly clear just how old Elfie is
supposed to be but it’s a pretty safe bet she’s not supposed to be a
27-year-old Londoner. Versatile as
she may be, Jaime Winstone looks like she’s in her late-20s and doesn’t even
attempt a Welsh accent. Meanwhile,
father Ray Winstone (“I’m the Daddy now!”) in a laughably
bad cameo, plays local butcher Bryn, Elfie’s guardian angel.

 

With
its overly-mannered dialogue and stylised look borrowed from a trendy Dalston
retro-store, Elfie Hopkins feels
like it’s trying too hard. The
mystery elements don’t work because there’s no mystery; we know the Gammons are
wrong ‘uns from the start. The
last act lurch into horror as Elfie takes on her cannibalistic neighbours in a
bloody showdown, while it injects some much-needed energy into the film,
doesn’t really grab you. It’s dark
but not dark enough, bloodily violent but not inventively so. There’s nothing at stake for the
audience, you don’t really care about Elfie, she’s not really a character, more
a clichéd collection of character traits hiding behind a wooly hat and hipster
hair. Which is a shame. You can just about see the bones of the
dark, quirky film Elfie Hopkins thinks it is, unfortunately Andrews and
co-writer Riyad Barmania have failed
to coat them with flesh.

 

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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