Timothy Spall scrowls, grunts, spits, and snarls for two and half hours as he portrays British painter J.M.W.Turner. The makers of Mr Turner assume that everyone viewing this film is fully versed in the early Victoria art scene. We are told next to nothing about Mr Turner, his fellow artists, his patrons, his family, or much of anything. We watch as Mr Turner paints, stomps around, gropes the occasional woman, and attends the occasional art show. I have to wonder if he ran into Dickens at some point and inspired the creation of Mr Scrooge.
Mr Turner is a collection of random events that seem to have no point. We never see a happy moment in the man’s life. He has a number of fans who love his work, but he has plenty of people who hate his work as well. He moves among the rich and famous, but none of them seem to view him as an equal. He spends a good deal of time pretending to be someone else. He’s not a very nice fellow. And then he dies.
So, what was good about Mr Turner? Well, it looked pretty amazing. There were countless shots framed and colored to look like a Turner painting. Yellow made several appearances as it was Turner’s favorite color. The costumes were brilliant. The sets were great. I suppose the acting was good, if grunting and growling counts as acting.
They cast Mr Turner with an eye to the plainest, dullest, and often ugliest actors and actresses they could find. Weird people are the norm here. There were several scenes that featured a very effeminate man with a lisp that would have done Monty Python’s Pontius Pilate proud. There was also a bit of very bad singing that went on for way too long.
Mr Turner was a movie that rambled and drifted and had no plot, no story, and no excuse for existing in the first place.