RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Penelope Wilton’ Category

Belle

18 May

Belle – directed by Amma Asante. Costume Drama. 109 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

The Story: A mulatto girl becomes the heiress of a great 18th Century British fortune and goes into politics.

~

“What a great big lovely movie!” I said to myself when it was done, and so it is. Produced in the best Masterpiece Theatre manner, with grand costumes in immense mansions and slightly postured dialogue delivered in the style of low emotional tremolo when feeling is required, it delivers full value as a costume drama.

A costume drama is a drama with no drama, only certain posits foregone. Will the mulatto daughter heiress marry right and well? Will her adopted father who is Chief Justice of The Realm come out on the proper side in the case of the drowned slaves? Will society ever accept her, illegitimate and chocolate as she is? Of course, of course, of course is the answer to these questions even as they are posed. And why?

Because no one is deeply engaged in any personal drama at all. People weep and shout, but so what? Is there ever a matter, inside any main character, which is virtually undecidable? Is there a character defect in any one of them (as there is, say, in Emma), that is tragic or virtually tragic? Is there a situation that goes deeper than a code or a social necessity or a decorum? Not really.

As it stands it might be but isn’t Tom Wilkinson’s story. For he, as the Chief Justice, is the one who may or may not set the entire world on a different course on the matter of slavery. But he is not given the scenes that would cut inside him as to how this momentous case reflects out from his relations with the black niece he has harbored. Certainly she is played well by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as is his wife played our belovèd Emily Watson, and his sister, Aunt Mary, played by the redoubtable Penelope Wilton.

But the forces of Costume Drama are arrayed against any such drama. And the story is handed over to the black girl, who actually is given nothing in the writing inside herself to play against. For the expectation is that, though an heiress, she can never marry, but must, like her Aunt Mary, become the spinster chatelaine of a vast estate. Oh horrors! Why is a woman’s fortune so meagerly thus! But, really, what we need to see is the real attractions there might be in becoming just like her aunt. Instead she is presented as the perfect heroine, fetching, pretty, bright, courageous, and startlingly adept at Scarlatti. And, of course, offered the handsomest man in the picture as a beau. He is very good. His name is Sam Reid.

Still, it is a wonderful picture of its kind – like Spielberg’s Lincoln – an overview of a single historical event – involving slavery — although less of a character study. You will not be wasting your time to see it; not at all; you will be informed and heartened. And finally know that slavery is wrong? No, that something worse is wrong: blind-heartedness. Blind-heartedness is wrong.

 

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

12 Jun

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – directed by John Madden. Comedy/Drama. A group of retirees seek economic comfort at a Jaipur hotel, which they find also to be a retiree. 124 minutes Color 2012.

★★★★★

If by some merry chance you should be gulled into seeing this piece, relax then and wander for a time with this bunch of expatriates and be one of them, for in each of us at some time and place is each of the characters we find before us here, and are just as we would be should we find ourselves here. We first of all are the impecuniously retired. We are also the one so fearful of going out of doors in Jaipur India that we miss the fun of the color and assault of the stench and the poverty and the endless wealth and variety of life. Then we are also the one who betrayed a love long ago. We are no less the one who must cling to her safety blanket of familiar foods, never daring to nibble a dainty. We are the racially prejudiced. We are the brash strider venturing forth into the escape of a world both opposite to his own and also unavoidable. The mad and kindly proprietor of this old hotel is a young man who has just inherited it, and his enthusiasm is as boundless as his promises and equally unfulfillable. Never was a film so perfectly, so justly filmed and edited. Never was one so fortunately cast. The balance of the scenes is exquisite as played off against one another for length, tone, plot, and color. Tom Wilkinson plays the lover in search of his once lost love. My favorite, Maggie Smith, who is the most physical actor of her generation, plays the lower-class foodie, and gives to us, once again, that rare gift of an actor, embodiment. Richard Nighy is the fellow who ventures out into the wilds of the city. Which brings us to Judi Dench. I have always thought that to act opposite Judi Dench would be to act opposite a rock. I don’t like her. There is no give in her. Instead an adamantine quality in her chooses the moment for “sympathy,” as by a schoolmarm’s ferule.  She is an actress of advanced calculations, always an instant ahead of the moment. She’s mean. She irritates me. Usually. For this is not one of those times. Here she is given to play the part of a woman entirely opposite to all that, one naive to the world, a woman whose dead husband took care of everything, with the exception of providing for her in the event of his death. She plays it freshly. She appeals. All of them do, but the one who really appeals most is the young actor playing the delirious proprietor of the hotel. What a wonderful voice and face and energy. What a sense of humor. What a darling guy. He is Dev Patel of fond memory of Slumdog Millionaire. And the movie is directed by John Madden of fond memory of Shakespeare In Love. So you see. Whatever age you are, you cannot go wrong with this movie, for whatever age you are you too are a retiree from something, waking up in a new place and, just like our friends here, just like a newborn baby, comically disoriented. Catch it at once.

 

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button