Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Thank You President Ford

I keep trying to decide if I have a memory of President Ford. I thought for a while that Sara and I had put together an elaborate pro-environmental packet and sent it to him and gotten a pre-printed postcard reply back. But if I'm honest I think that was President Carter. I don't think I have any memory of Ford, except a picture of President and Mrs. Ford in a Baskin & Robbins in the Newington Mall. Which isn't much of anything.

I had a lovely day courtesy of him, though. Too bad it was today and it was in honor of his death. Thanks President Ford!

I went into work to get the lay of the land this morning but I left at 11am. Before I went I checked out the movie listings. I was trying to think of something I could do to make the day special, to really take advantage of having the time but also being up and out of the house before noon. So, I thought movie, I usually don't do that. I saw Notes on a Scandal.

Before I get into specifics I thought I'd try to come up with a way to recommend the movie, to tell you something about it without giving anything away. Here it goes:

When I went to get my ticket today there was a pretty young woman in the booth. She had many tiny braids, then her hair was streaked with red and blue - the colors you'd see in flags, and then the little braids were gathered into two French braids. It was gorgeous. So I thought, "I should say something. She'd like to hear that someone likes her hair." I don't usually do that, though, but I screwed up my courage and complimented her. She smiled and I felt proud of myself for cracking the shell and reaching out to someone. Then I saw the movie and....I feel a little dirty.

That being said I will now talk about the actual movie and I'll try to keep it spoiler free but I can't make any promises, you're really better off going in without any preconceptions.

It's Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, frankly I could stop right there and say nothing more and it should be enough. The depth and nuance they both bring to characters makes everything they do so believable, so real and so riveting that it practically brings tears to my eyes even when the subject matter is off-putting.

I was having a conversation with Media Guy about A Doll's House. OK, actually what happened was he wrote me an e-mail that basically said, "I'm reading A Doll's House. It's ridiculous!" and I wrote back saying, "It's a classic. You're ridiculous!" and he wrote back saying, "But it's ridiculous!" and I wrote again saying, "It's social commentary. You're naive and ridiculous!" and the "discussion" pretty much fell flat form there. I wish I'd seen this movie before he wrote to me.

In a black and white world the plot of this movie consists largely of people doing abhorrent things. They shouldn't do them and if they'd just do the right thing then everything would work out fine. Also, the movie would be extremely short. Mix in Dench and Blanchett, though, and you have all the little emotions and quirks of actual human beings that lead them (or at least those of us lesser humans) to take the wrong path. A character that could be played just as a battle axe, someone without vulnerability or heart, turns out to have soft spots, problems, weaknesses that spur her forward. You can look at a 15-year-old boy and think, "This is gross" but also hear his accent and see him touch a woman and part of you can find him attractive.

The movie is also brilliantly written. No detail is unimportant and no twist appears without being fully supported. It's pitch perfect for each character and for the setting. It's set in London and it addresses the pervasive classism of the Brits head on. If you're American you probably think you can overcome your class. If you're a Brit you probably don't. It grated on me when I lived there but I came to understand it and, as a rule, over there it's utterly true. You are your class and you're more than welcome to have pipe dreams about leaving it (See: Full Monty) but eventually you're just going to fall right back into your niche. The good thing about this rigidity, this hopelessness of progress, though, is what you can learn about yourself if you look at your class and the, well, stereotypes of it. There's a scene early in the movie where Dench discusses Blanchett's attributes with regard to her class and it just made my skin crawl with the truth of it and how it related to me.

As for the other details of the movie, every one is thought through. A cell phone plays an important role in the plot. Philip Glass did the soundtrack. I'm not generally a fan but wow, he couldn't have been more perfect for this. He incorporated tones and pitches that are reminiscent of cell phone rings. It was at once disconcerting and engaging.

The subject matter isn't easy. The writing and the execution are practically flawless. You should definitely go see it.


  1. Anonymous7:03 AM

    Everything you said is everything I suspected. You're right; "Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett" is really all *I* need.

    I saw the trailer prior to seeing Casino Royale. I'm not a huge Bond fan, but this movie may have turned me a bit. What really impressed me, though, is how Dench took a really minor character and ran away with her. That woman is something else.

    I'm so glad you enjoyed your day! Thank you so much for the review!

  2. Memory of Ford: Apparently, when my parents were explaining the concept of presidents and establishing that they have a chronology, I wanted to know who was president when I was born. So, although I have no recollections of him in office, I do think of him as one of MY presidents.