|A FilmExposed Film Review
Dir: Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter, 2007, UK, 100 mins
Cast: Shaun Evans, Stockard Channing, Bob Hoskins, Lesley Manville, Amanda Ryan
Sam Spark (Evans) is an ambitious and cocky 22 year-old who has grown tired of his humdrum life in Liverpool. In Sam's eyes, the streets of London are paved with gold, and when he bumps into lonely bachelor Vince (Hoskins) he spies an opportunity to make his long-awaited move south. Ever since his father's stroke Vince has found himself with an empty flat on his hands, and after laying on a charm offensive Sam signs up as his new lodger. But it isn't Sam who has really charmed Vince, it's actually his mother Jill (Manville) who has also moved to the capital in an effort to establish herself as a cabaret singer.
The heart and soul of Sparkle lies in the interplay between Hoskins and Manville, two reliable actors who give lovely performances here. Manville's smartly observed turn is perfectly pitched, while Hoskins manages to generate a real sense of pathos from his potentially underwritten role; and whenever these two actors share the screen, the picture receives an extra injection of life. But for much of the film these two characters are marginalised while Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter - who co-wrote and co-directed Sparkle - place the main focus on Sam's romantic entanglements, which is to the film's detriment.
After sleeping his way into a cushy job with older woman Sheila (Channing, good despite a scratchy accent), Sam also gets involved with Kate (Ryan), a girl closer to his own age who harbours an explosive secret. But this love triangle is too contrived to convince, and the plotting is often strained as Hunsinger and Hunter struggle to keep Sam blissfully unaware of Kate's real agenda. The major revelations which arise from this storyline are poorly handled by the filmmakers, with one in particular - the identification of a long-lost father - being completely fudged. These scenes should carry a powerful emotional kick, but they fall disappointingly flat.
The film is only flat in a handful of areas though, and for the most part, Sparkle maintains a lightly amusing tone. A couple of very funny moments are scattered throughout the picture (some provided by a very camp Anthony Head) and the film is consistently well paced, with the energetic build-up to the climax lending the story an uplifting finale. Perhaps this engaging picture never quite sparkles as one would wish, but thanks to the first-rate cast, it does occasionally shine.