CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

"Philomena" could be Dench's swan song

In storytelling, the most affecting tragedy includes the tears of a clown.  Sir Toby Belch or Falstaff was a stock comedy relief in many of William Shakespeare's historical tragedies.  The terror of the original "Wicker Man" is made more horrorific by the goofy characters and cheesy music that is played previously.  Given his work in **Dangerous Liasons,** **The Grifters,**Mrs. Henderson presents...** and **The Queen,** director Stephen Frears knows how to balance the humor and sadness of **Philomena.**
When journalist Martin Sixsmith  (Steve Coogan) loses his high profile job with a national newspaper in Great Britain, he begins slumming in "human interest stories."  Given his international career covering the fall of the Soviet Union, Sixsmith finds "human interest" stories beneath his standards.   Desperate for income, Sixsmith gets in contact with Philomena (Judi Dench).
When she was a naïve teenager visiting the county fair, Philomena had a boy out of wedlock.  Without parential support, Philomena is forced into indentured servitude at a Catholic nunnery.  The boy is born and young Philomena's maternal instincts kick in.  One day, rich parents from Washington D.C. adobt Philomena's boy, while the heartbroken mother continues to fufill her medical debt to the nunnery. Fifty years later, Philomena wants to know what happened to her baby boy.
With a mystery afoot, Sixsmith & Philomena uncover clues.  What does an autograph picture of Jane Russell have to do with the nunnery?   Why is there an unkempt graveyard of young mothers and premature babies?  How does the Reagan Administration fit into this mystery?   **Philomena** answers these and many more questions, but it is personal resentment and human interest that forms this core mystery of evil.
As Philomena, Judi Dench will provide Meryl Streep competition during awards season.  Dench retains the grit from her previous acting challenges as Queen Elizabeth & Queen Victoria, but with **Philomena** the actress reveals a vulnerability not seen in many decades.
Best known from his British comedy performances, Steve Coogan  cowrote and produced **Philomena.** With low key precision as the straight man, Coogan let's Dame Judi Dench shine without shadow.  With **Philomena,** Coogan enters the next stage of British Royal film making
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