The Optimists

1973

Drama

74
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 86%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 71%
IMDb Rating 6.8 10 488

Synopsis


Downloaded times
September 29, 2021

Cast

720p.BLU
1021.33 MB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
110 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by curtin_optom 9 / 10 / 10

sensitive, sad but very true to life

This is a very sad and sensitive film, beautifully filmed in a very poor area of London just behind Battersea Power Station. If you enjoy Merchant Ivory films, the 'Kidnappers', or 'Whistle Down the Wind' then you will appreciate the delicate undertones of this story. It is very true to life in the late 60's in London and shows the resilience of the children and the sadness of a once great Music Hall star.

Reviewed by Igenlode Wordsmith 7 / 10 / 10

Practical whimsy

"The Optimists of Nine Elms" played last night to a packed house, and I for one wasn't disappointed. As promised, it was touching and yet not sentimental in its story about the relationship between a former music-hall star and the urchins who find in the old busker first a solution to their boredom, then to their affection-starved lives. The odd uncertainty of the eras in its setting -- as epitomised by the shots in which the hulk of Battersea Power Station and post-war slums are contrasted with jet-liners and executive helicopters -- is explained when you learn that the film's origins were indeed back in the early 1950s. (The director, who was present at the screening, catalogued for us the long process of delays by which it finally reached the stage of production!) And once you know that the scenario was originally intended for Buster Keaton, it's very easy to sense an unspoken echo in the writing of many of the scenes, from the scrapbook's childhood billing of "Little Sammy Hall" onwards. But Peter Sellers, the actor who eventually made the part his own after many re-casting attempts fell through, is by no means a bottom-of-the-barrel substitute. The child actors are good (although in places their line readings came across as stilted; Liz's pert answerings-back to her mother seemed particularly prone to this) but Sellers carries the film as the shabby, capering, yet unconsciously dignified showman, still working the crowds with material that ranges from 'flappers' back to the Zulu Wars. Unlike the children's parents, he can employ a lifetime's experience with hecklers when faced with juvenile persistence -- and they, of course, are young enough to be fascinated by his patter, his treasure-trove of costumes, and his beloved dog. Especially the dog. It takes a special sort of talent to portray a child of the stage who thinks nothing of dancing across a bridge while pushing an old pram, but Peter Sellers creates a credible character who is both a whimsical performer and a seasoned street survivor, aided and abetted by a soundtrack that supplies the unheard music of his life. We hear in voice-over, as if from a past age, fuller performances of the songs that are interrupted within the story by the business of the plot and of the busking life, and to be honest I kept expecting a flashback that would flesh out the ghosts of his past. But the costumes, the songs, the tales of fellow performers and the snippets of personal history remain just that: snippets that leave us, and the children, tantalised. There is a good deal of humour in the script, principally but not entirely in Sam Hall's idiosyncratic comebacks and put-downs, but there is also feeling. I don't personally like dogs, but the children's predicament has me touched -- and their performances alongside Sellers, especially the non-professional Donna Mullane as Liz, have just the right touch of hard-boiled scepticism versus hunger for magic. The busking budgerigar act is also worthy of mention! And surely this must be the only film to show brutalist concrete skyscrapers as the Promised Land...

Reviewed by slokes 7 / 10 / 10

Bittersweet Tale Of Busker And His Dog

I'm a sucker for Peter Sellers as well as movies that center around dogs, so I'm easy to please here. That said, in both title and by being classified as a comedy, "The Optimists" is a bit off. Yes, it stars Sellers and a couple of likeably scruffy kids, but the story is one of only light humor and much sadness amid a downscale London district bordering the Thames called Nine Elms. Nine Elms, as a lonely young girl named Liz (Donna Mullane) explains in the beginning, "didn't mean trees, it meant foggy winter, the noise of trains. But most of all, it meant Sam, the first to show us the world on the other side of the river." Sam, played by Sellers, is a street performer, or "busker," who like his faithful dog Bella is getting on in years but still plugging away singing for loose change at soccer games. Liz and her little brother Mark (John Chaffey) initially tease Sam, but come to befriend him and Bella. Sam in turn indeed takes them across the river to help him in his street act, teach them some songs, and talk about life, death and the wonderland that's one's own imagination. "It's magic, it's private, it's yours," he says of the last thing. "It's not!" Liz counters. "I told you that's a rude word," Sam tells her. "Use a handkerchief." Sellers supposedly channeled memories of his father, a music-hall performer, in the character of Sam. He's charming company, tipping his battered hat and introducing songs like "No Matter How Long Your Stockings Are, The Tops Are Always Nearest To The Bottom." His interaction with Mullane and Chaffey is quite winning in a natural, unaffected way, chippy at first ("Don't annoy the dog, son, she'll pee all over you!"), then gradually warming into believable affection. A problem with "Optimists" is the absence of any real story. Liz's concern with the world across the river stems from the fact there are nicer apartments there for her family to live in if they can get accepted by the right building council. Mark just wants a dog of his own. Later in the story, there is a crisis involving the getting and keeping of this second dog, as well as how the relationship between Sam and the kids is interpreted by their gruff-but-decent father. None of this adds up to riveting cinema, and "Optimists" sort of runs on like the river that forms its most memorable backdrop. Amble as it does, "Optimists" has an engaging quality to it. Director Anthony Simmons, both the writer of the source novel and co-writer (with Tudor Gates) of the script, finds the right balance of image and pace. The musical score by George Martin, with songs by Lionel Bart, accentuates both Sam's music-hall heritage and his budding friendship with Liz and Mark. The cinematography by Larry Pizer is stark but beautiful, much of it centering around the environs of Battersea Power Station which will be quite familiar to Pink Floyd fans. There are no stirring setpieces in "Optimists," but a lot of nice little moments that stand out when you see them, like another busker with trained budgies or an old woman glimpsed staring out the window at the children playing outside. Twee and manipulative as it sometimes is, "Optimists" scores with a solid Sellers performance in the middle of his dry early-1970s period as well as a quality of battered hopefulness that sticks with you. If it had been more sharply written, it could have been a classic, but as it is it stands up as a character study and leaves a warm impression.

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