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archie, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Archie (2023)

There is a moment in Archie, however fleeting, that Jason Isaacs nails Cary Grant. Ironically, it comes at a time when he is trying to convince Dyan Cannon that he is not Cary Grant. “Even I want to be Cary Grant, but I'm not”, he explains. “I'm this guy” at which point he puts his glasses on askew and adopts a goofy grin. It’s the same screwball look the actor employed in such movies as The Awful Truth and Charade, and Isaacs executes it perfectly. For the remainder of this four-part limited series, he is portraying Archie Leach, and he’s nowhere near as much fun.

Archie frames its story with a performance of ‘An Evening with Cary Grant’, as the retired actor regales an audience with recollections of his life and tales of old Hollywood. Visited on stage by visions of his younger self, the biopic flashes back and forth between 1910's Bristol and 1960's Los Angeles. The two worlds could not be further apart. Young Archie Leach lives in abject poverty. His brother dies from a scratch because his family can't afford a doctor; his mother is committed to a psychiatric hospital; and his father abandons him to the care of an unloving grandmother. Middle-aged Cary Grant resides in a mansion; pursues an actress 33 years his junior; and has a maid that serves him dinner in bed. Yet despite their differences, these alternate environs do have at least one thing in common. As stated from the biopic's outset, Grant remains desperately unhappy.

While Jason Isaacs equips himself very nicely in the title role, that character’s name is Archie. Writer/producer Jeff Pope, who beautifully merged the on screen Laurel and Hardy with the off screen Stan & Ollie, is guided by his source material to take a different tack here. Based in part on Dyan Cannon’s memoir, Pope’s formulaic screenplay seems intent on highlighting the differences between the man and his screen persona. As a consequence, Archie becomes quite a dour biopic with only flashes of the Cary Grant we are accustomed to. Unsurprisingly Cannon, who also served as executive producer, emerges unscathed, buoyed by an engaging performance from Laura Aikman.

Elsewhere, the endless parade of celebrity look-notsomuch-alikes cheapens the whole enterprise. Not since Moviola: The Scarlett O’Hara War has a biopic been peppered with so many inconsequential bit parts.

Jason Isaacs, Cary Grant, Calam Lynch, Laura Aikman, Dyan Cannon
George Burns, Doris Day, Mae West, Danny Kaye, Fay Wray

Archie’s older brother died two days before his first birthday, and four years before Archie was born.

Depicts Archie discovering his mother was still alive while he was still married to Barbara Hutton. In reality, Archie was 31 years old when his father revealed the secret, after which Elsie was released from the psychiatric hospital in 1936. Archie and Barbara were married from 1942 – 1945.

Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Donen,  Randolph Scott
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