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Goode, but occasionally brilliant.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is currently on general release, an adaptation of the bestselling novel set in post war Guernsey. Lily James leads and among the supporting cast is Matthew Goode, you may not know his name, but his face will be familiar. Goode has the look of a 1950s matinee idol crossed with a minor royal and often plays vaguely aristocratic characters (Brideshead Revisited, The Crown) mostly in supporting roles. He seems to be an actor that directors know is great, but haven’t quite figured out how to use. He’s done romantic fluff (Leap Year), big screen misfires (Self/Less) and minor British flicks (Pressure). In the same way we can gauge how bad a Nicolas Cage film will be by how bad his hairstyle is in the poster, we can guess how underused Goode will be by whether or not he sports large round glasses. Like a lenticular card however, those good looks viewed from a different angle seem to hint at something mysterious, something darker, something unusual. To quote Ann Widdicombe’s description of Michael Howard, there is definitely “Something of the night.” about him, and it’s when we get to see this that he excels. In 2013’s Stoker he played the shadowy Uncle Charlie. We first see him from a long distance, shimmering in the heat and slightly out of focus, and he stays this way even up close. His character is polite, gallant even, but always observing and waiting, curious, forever slightly removed. For my money its his greatest performance, unshowy and contained, well mostly, when he finally reveals his true nature, all bets are off. Most recently you may have seen him playing philandering photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones in The Crown. Ambiguous in every way, his courting of Princess Margaret is gentlemanly yet cruel. This is when he’s at his best, embodying two contradictory traits simultaneously. So, Matthew Goode, an actor wasted playing just one person at a time, how mysterious, how unusual, how curious.

By Michael Hudson

From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 1st May 2018.

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