DIANE DE BEER
MR JOHNSON (Available on BoxOffice/DStv)
DIRECTOR/WRITER: William Collinson
CAST: Paul Slabolepszy, Frans Rautenbach, Jana Cilliers, Graham Hopkins, Anthony Coleman
A confession to start this review: I have always been a Paul Slab fan. Not only of his writing, but also of his acting. And probably more than anything, of his passion as an artist.
There’s also his friendship/collaboration on (and off) stage and on film with the late Bill Flynn, which gave so many of us pleasure and memories.
That’s why this movie appealed to me right from the start. In real life there’s a youthful exuberance to Slabolepszy that few can imitate and it is exactly that quality that inhabits the world of Mr Johnson – his character and the story.
You have to let your imagination run riot – but that’s often the case when Slabolepszy’s involved. David Johnson has been in a coma for 47 years. He wakes up at the age of 73, which is what the movie deals with.
This is a man who when 20-something has an accident, which puts him in a coma. When he wakes up, obviously, his whole life has changed – both the physical reality of who and what he has become, but also technologically with smart phones and the internet, to name just a few.
Fortunately money isn’t a problem. What the director wanted to deal with was old age and people being discarded and ignored. And to have Slab as your vehicle is smart thinking because he brings the impetus to this Cinderella type story – the down and out ageing “20-something” is something probably only he could pull off.
And he does – with charm and wit, the perfect antidote in today’s world. There’s much to complain about; a first-time director with first-time mistakes, a script that truly tests your BS detector, and questionable decisions on too many levels.
But then there’s the appeal of Slab, the fact that they are dealing with ageing, something that features abundantly on film, stage, books and television simply because of the Baby Boomer numbers and thus higher visibility. It is part of the zeitgeist. And there’s the excellent use of some star power we’re more used to seeing on stage than on screen like Jana Cilliers, a great (also sentimental) choice as the love interest, a superb cameo by Graham Hopkins, and a hardly-ever-seen Judy Broderick, who feels as if she has been missing in action.
When I started watching, I had only read the first few lines of the synopsis and thought I was seeing a more serious movie than the one I was about to watch. However, in these times when few people need anything serious, this fantasy romp with some serious underlying issues is probably just about the right temperature.
And who can resist Paul Slabolepszy, all dressed up and ready to go.
Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsstmCBb5SY&t=1s