The Hippopotamus ***
Dir: John Jencks. With: Roger Allam, Matthew Modine, Emily Berrington, Fiona Shaw. 89 mins. Cert: 15
Jonathan Pryce in Dough, Roger Allam here – it’s a week of underfilmed performers lending gravitas to light-middleweight material. John Jencks’ adaptation of the Stephen Fry novel is all Allam, all the time: when not grousing in voiceover, he can be witnessed sniping, letching and harrumphing in person as Ted Wallace, a blocked poet-turned-soused critic drawn into an altogether wonky country house mystery. It’s a slight limitation that neither Wallace nor the audience really knows what he’s investigating – we’re mostly watching Allam scowling at the eccentrics passing through his eyeline – but it’s still a pleasure, and often a joy, to watch the star measuring out and savouring Fry’s rich wordplay like fingers of Scotch. Even when the plotting gets clotted come the final reel, all that’s required is for Allam to open his mouth to dispel any nonsense or mediocrity: has there ever been an actor better suited to delivering despairing “Fuck me”s?
The Hippopotamus is now playing in selected cinemas.