Weird film accents: the new Dick Van Dykes | Television & radio


Name: Weird accents.

Age: As old as acting.

Appearance: On a screen near you.

Can you give me an example? For one, there’s Lily James’s stab at sounding like Pamela Anderson in the new Netflix series Pammy & Tommy.

What’s weird about it? Does it not sound like Pamela Anderson? It sounds more like Pamela Anderson than Pamela Anderson does – it’s actually kind of intense.

I’ll take your word for it. It’s over the top, but it works. Then there’s Julia Garner’s impersonation of the real-life con artist Anna Delvey in Inventing Anna.

I don’t even know what she’s supposed to sound like. It’s a strange blend of Russian, German, British, American and inauthentic.

Perhaps it’s authentically inauthentic – she’s playing an impostor, after all. That may well be the idea, but the result is jarring and, when it comes to the reviews, polarising.

And this is a trend, you say? It appears to be.

Who else is boldly attempting accents, for better or worse? A scouse Martin Freeman in The Responder; everybody in House of Gucci.

I saw that – it was like the longest Dolmio advert ever. The variable-strength Italian accents on show divided opinion, with most people on your side.

Can’t they just find actors who already possess the accents required? If you’re an actor, you’re meant to be able to act.

So why can’t they do the accents? Lots of them can. The bar, once very low, is now set pretty high.

Not like when Dick Van Dyke played a cockney in Mary Poppins. No. But then Lin-Manuel Miranda arguably fared worse in the 2018 sequel Mary Poppins Returns.

Why did they pick him? Was there some kind of shortage of English actors in 2018? They somehow managed to cast one in every other part. Perhaps they just ran out.

Shouldn’t these highly paid actors be trying a little bit harder? They try really hard. The days of winging it and hoping for the best – Mel Gibson in Braveheart, say, or Kevin Costner as Robin Hood – are over.

So it’s not a lack of discipline? Garner, who spent a month speaking only in a Missouri accent for her role as Ruth Langmore in Ozark, did similar in-depth preparation for Inventing Anna, even visiting Delvey in prison. Lady Gaga spent nine months speaking with a northern Italian accent before House of Gucci.

Does it really matter if the accent is a bit ropey in the end? Only if people notice, but it’s bad when they do.

Do say: “Whatsa matter you? Why you lookah so sad?”

Don’t say: “Maybe just do the accent with your eyes.”



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