Dec 11, 2019

Old stars shining in current must-see movies

Wearing my movie lover’s hat, I am delighted to report that – despite all that we read about Hollywood losing the plot over what makes a quality film – there are many producers who are still delivering the goods. And within just one week I’ve now seen four movies that I can highly recommend on their merit, and with the extra gloss of showcasing great acting by a clutch of great old actors. 

Going backwards from the most recent, yesterday I saw the fabulous choreography between Helen Mirren (74) and Sir Ian McKellen (80) as between them they wove the engrossing story of The Good Liar. I had read the book long enough ago to have forgotten the details of the final outcome, and all around me in the relatively full cinema there were gasps of surprise and satisfaction at the conclusion of a pretty perfect film. 

The day before, there were The Two Popes, giving a version of meetings between the present and the previous popes around the period of transfer of power from one to the other. This film got mixed reviews. Some gave it three to three and a half stars, and one gave it one and a half stars, the latter comparing it to a poor version of Neil Simon’s Odd Couple. So, even though it starred two sterling actors, in Anthony Hopkins (81) and Jonathan Pryce (74), I didn’t know what to expect. What my companion and I agreed on after seeing it was that the reviewer who gave it the poor review was a very poor reviewer who was talking through his hat. 

While the two characters did bond, after a fashion, in the course of the relationship that was portrayed, it was a very moving and fairly serious partial meeting of the minds of two very different personalities with some quite opposing beliefs. And while there were a few moments of light relief, these were mainly interwoven through the credits at the end. In the course of the movie, however, there was no flinching from the compromises that the to-be Pope Francis made in his younger days, at the height of the terrors of the Argentinian dictatorship and shown in flashback; and on soon-to-be-retired Pope Benedict XVI’s  part, there was the guilt-laden admission of putting the church’s reputation above its responsibilities to the victims of known paedophile priests. Neither admission was a bellyful of laughs. Rather, they shone a spotlight on how people who see themselves as righteous can persuade themselves to do what hindsight makes them see very differently.

And I found that this film, while mainly a talkfest, was – thanks to the excellent acting in both parts – totally gripping. It was also fascinating to get insights into the functioning of the Catholic Church, and the Vatican. 

The third film, seen a few days earlier, was the rightfully highly praised Pain and Glory, a fictionalised reflection by renowned Spanish director Pedro Almodovar (70) of his life and current state of mind, beautifully interpreted by Antonio Banderas (59). Again, there were illuminating flashbacks, but these were of his life as a young and precocious boy with Penelope Cruz as his spirited and supportive mother, with that role taken up by the feisty Julieta Serrano (86) in old and disappointed age. It is a portrayal of the sorts of dilemmas and challenges of old age, for which there are partial resolutions and the grace of acceptance of what cannot be changed. 

Last but not least, in amongst those films I saw the nostalgic Agatha Christie clone, Knives Out, with a large and diverse cast, and twists and turns of plot that need your absolute concentration in amongst the particular enjoyment of watching a cluster of older players contributing what they do so well, with highlights from Christopher Plummer (89), the strikingly white-haired Jamie Lee Curtis (61), and the resurrected Don Johnson (69), plus the added pleasure of seeing Daniel Craig (a mere babe at 51) taking time out from 007 for some light-hearted relief. 

So, to paraphrase Shakespeare, get thee to a cinema or four, for a lot of viewing pleasure that reaffirms the delivery of continuingly classy acting by the Baby Boomer set (born between 1946 and 1964) and their predecessors, actors from the not-so Silent Generation (1925-1945). As for me, I’m looking forward to the forthcoming film Truth, starring Catherine Deneuve (76), Roger Van Hool (79), and just-scraped-into-Baby-Boomer stage, Juliette Binoche (55). 

Anne Ring ©2019

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