The Daily Stream: 'Mona Lisa' Features Another Killer Performance From Bob Hoskins

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)The MovieMona LisaWhere You Can Stream It: HBO Max and The Criterion ChannelThe Pitch: Bob Hoskins plays George, an uncouth ex-con who is given a job as a driver for a high-priced sex worker named Simone (Cathy Tyson). Though the two initially bicker as their personality styles clash, George finds himself slowly falling for Simone and pulled into London's seedy underground on a quest to find one of her old friends who has gone missing.Why It's Essential Viewing: Two words: Bob Hoskins. I grew up watching Hoskins as the bumbling pirate sidekick Smee in Hook, as Mario in Super Mario Bros., and as the hardboiled detective Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Throughout my childhood, those were the only three films I'd seen him in, and I was totally unaware that he had this whole other side to his career appearing in British crime movies. But now I'm making my way back through some of his filmography; he was terrific in The Long Good Friday, and I'm glad to have seen him in Mona Lisa, in which he earned an Academy Award nomination for his outstanding performance.

Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with a Vampire) co-wrote and directed this neo-noir, which features some nice, contemplative, soulful moments from Hoskins and Tyson as they glide through the dirty, sleazy corners of the city and try to look respectable as Simone enters and exits fancy hotels to meet her clients. The camera is almost always at ground level, helping to ground us in George's perspective as he tries to get to know his estranged daughter, gets embroiled in dangerous drama with his old boss (Michael Caine), and slowly falls harder and harder for Simone.

It is a neo-noir, though, so it's not all fun and games: people's motivations and true feelings are eventually exposed, and the way Hoskins acts and reacts to these plot twists makes me wish I'd sought out his work in the gangster genre years ago.

One of my favorite things about the movie is George's friendship with his best pal Thomas, played by Robbie Coltrane. The two of them bring a sense of warm history to their relationship, but the best part is that the film devotes time to showing us Thomas's off-the-wall job, which seems to be making bizarre pieces of art. At one point, the camera pans across Thomas's warehouse apartment/work studio to reveal that he has made multiple plates of fake spaghetti. After being told that the spaghetti is "ornamental," George asks Thomas where he got it. "Contacts, George," Thomas replies. "Can't find plastic spaghetti just anywhere." That level of weird specificity is sorely lacking from many films that are made today, and I encourage filmmakers (and studios and people in power) to do more stuff like this that doesn't contribute to pushing the plot forward.