Tag Archives: Jim Broadbent

The Lady in the Van

Margaret Fairchild’s life is full and wonderfully varied – she loves the piano and is a gifted pianist. As a girl, her parents recognise her talent and she spends time under the tutelage of Alfred Cortot, one of the 20th century’s most renowned classical musicians. Young Margaret even plays Chopin in a promenade concert. As she grows up she hopes to become a nun, but it doesn’t eventuate and her brother commits her to an institution. She manages to escape, but later she’s driving along a country lane when her van is in a motor accident. The motorcyclist involved is badly injured and she believes she’s responsible. From that day onwards she lives in total fear of arrest and takes fright every time anyone approaches her. To “disappear”, she becomes Miss Mary Shepherd (played by Maggie Smith) – and lives in a Bedford van, moving from place to place around London each time the locals become suspicious or too close to her. One day she parks in the Camden street of writer, Allan Bennett (by Alex Jennings), who tolerates her, even when she regularly avails herself of his bathroom and moves her unsightly van into his driveway. He agrees that she can stay “temporarily”, which becomes fifteen years of Miss Shepherd and Mr Bennett barely enduring each other’s presence. This is a true story …

Whilst there is no doubting the strength of Maggie Smith’s performance as the belligerent and eccentric Miss Shepherd, I did find this movie hard going. She plays the ungrateful “Lady in the Van” very well and her character is fascinating, if not frustrating. Also, the script has its very witty moments, but overall the movie didn’t really grab me. Something’s not quite right with it. Alan Bennett’s narrative is told in a double-act – Allan Bennet the writer and Allan Bennet the man – who chat with each other of the frustrations of this woman and what they will do about it, also how writer Allan will develop his book based on the story. The neighbours are typical of the time (seemingly welcoming, but suspicious and eager for her to depart) and Allan’s interactions with the Social Worker, Lois (by Claire Foy) provide an interesting interlude. Miss Shepherd, aka Margaret Fairchild, died in 1989. Overall, the movie is okay, but I would wait until television to see it.

Made in 2015. Directed by Nicholas Hytner.

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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Movies


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Le Weekend

In the full flush of young love, Nick (played by Jim Broadbent) and Meg (by Lindsay Duncan) spend a wonderful honeymoon in Paris. They delight at everything – the food, the life and the passion of their blossoming marriage. Now – three decades later, Nick and Meg’s family are adult-age with their own lives and Nick, a University Professor, has recently had to retire. Their English lives have become a dreary routine and they find themselves pining for those earlier heady days of romance and “devil may care” abandonment. They’ve come to Paris to find all that again and hopefully rejuvenate their flailing marriage. Nick tries hard, but can’t help being “himself” – a constant source of irritation these days for Meg. They bump into Morgan (by Jeff Goldblum) one of Nick’s past academic friends who now lives in Paris, which creates at least a distraction for them, if nothing else. These few days spent in Paris promise much – but will they deliver?

I spend most of this film wondering whether it’s supposed to be funny or sad. It’s one of those movies where nobody is ever happy – even though it’s supposed to be a comedy (I think). However, there are some wonderful performances here – Jeff Goldblum is at his irritatingly pretentious best as Morgan; Lindsay Duncan is a natural as the frustrated and bored Meg who would do just about anything for some excitement in her life; and Jim Broadbent is as dependable as ever as the well-intentioned, but constantly bewildered Nick. He hasn’t got a clue how to appease his Meg and all he wants is a happy life. This collection of great actors with masterful direction by Roger Michell create a very watchable movie and Paris as the backdrop just can’t do a thing wrong really. Perhaps people of other generations will see other things here and that is part of the charm of this movie – it will appeal to a broad audience with the range of delights it offers. Parts of the drama are quite poignant and may hit home for couples who have experienced a similar situation. On the whole it is a nice, but not outstanding movie. At the British Independent Film Awards (2013), Lindsay Duncan was awarded Best Actress for her performance and Jim Broadbent won a Silver Seashell Best Actor award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival (2013) for his work here also.

Made in 2014. Directed by Roger Michell

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Posted by on June 17, 2014 in Movies


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Bridget Jones’ Diary

It’s another cold, snowy Christmas in England and Bridget Jones (played by Renee Zellweger) is back home from London for the holidays to see her parents and endure yet another excruciating family Christmas. This year, Bridget’s mum (by Gemma Jones) decides she should match-make the “30-something, but still single” Bridget with her friend’s son, Mark Darcy (by Colin Firth). Both mums love the idea, but at their introduction Mark is just embarrassed and bored and can’t wait to get away. Such is life for our still-single, girl about town, Bridget – an aspiring journalist, working at a London publishers who yearns for a far more exciting social life. She is convinced that “Mr Right is just around the corner waiting for me and this would all be so easily achieved, if only I lost 20 pounds immediately and got the personality of a super-woman ….” – yes – it’s that easy, right? For her New Year’s Resolution, Bridget decides to get things under control once and for all – she starts a diet and starts her diary. She enters her frank daily thoughts into the sympathetic pages and bares her roller-coaster of emotions. Her social life is active, she sees her group of quirky friends Jude, Tom and Shazza (by Shirley Henderson, James Callis and Sally Phillips) regularly and all rolls along – then it suddenly takes a turn for the brighter when her boss, Daniel Cleaver (by Hugh Grant) starts to pay her a lot more attention … she blossoms in this new way of living and it all seems to be going so well – until she runs into the disagreeable Mark Darcy once again, who reminds her of her shortcomings and threatens to foil her happiness …

This is such a lovely movie – the dramatisation of the very popular book by Helen Fielding. Bridget is just like so many of us – insecure, ambitious but unsure, fed up but with marvellous dreams – and just looking for happiness. The girl we meet is so endearingly real – Renee Zellweger famously gained weight to play this role (and spent time to practice a very well performed British accent). For her trouble, she was nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for this performance. It is refreshing to see Hugh Grant as Daniel Cleaver – here he isn’t the bumbling, awkward and inarticulate fellow we have seen elsewhere. Daniel Cleaver is a womanising cad, self-assured, arrogant and far too cocky for his own good. Fans of Colin Firth will enjoy his performance as Mark Darcy – the alignment between this character Darcy and the one he played so well as Mr Darcy in the 1995 award winning television version of “Pride and Prejudice” doesn’t go unnoticed. There is a very attractive and heart-warming thread of intensity to his performance as his feelings towards Bridget are demonstrated through facial expressions and gestures – it will be marvellous for romantics seeing this movie. There is slapstick comedy throughout – sometimes a little overdone for my taste, but overall its a very entertaining and endearing movie and it’s one of my all time favourites

Made in 2001. Directed by Sharon Maguire

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Movies


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Iris Murdoch is a well known and highly respected British writer. This movie tells the life story of Iris (played first by Kate Winslet and then by Judi Dench). We meet Iris as a strong-minded young academic teaching philosophy at Oxford University in the 1940’s. She meets John Bayley (by Hugh Bonneville then by Jim Broadbent), a fellow professor and socially awkward fellow, who seems totally opposite to the free-spirited and confident Iris. But theirs is a special match and they form a deep and enduring relationship. Through John’s memories, we learn about their relationship – how they met, their courtship, his total enchantment with the vibrant and highly intelligent young novellist Iris. They have a busy social life including Iris’ long time friend Janet Stone (by Penelope Wilton). Then we watch through his eyes as her writing career flourishes and then she slowly develops Alzheimer’s disease, until it transforms her into an unrecognisable Iris who is unable to function independently and needs John’s full time care, This journey is exhausting for John and he lives with the total frustration and utter heartbreak of it.

This movie is excellent. My heart went out to both Iris and John as they lived such a wonderful and happy life, then as their world started to change and gradually erode as Iris’ disease began to take hold of her. Judi Dench is just wonderful as Iris. In fact, the performances of all three – Kate Winslet (as the flirty, flightly, excited and highly intelligent young Iris), Judi Dench (as the mature, eccentric then confused and frightened Iris) and Jim Broadbent (the totally smitten, deeply passionate, involved, tenacious and enduring John) – are just superb.  They are all marvellous and Jim Broadbent totally deserves the 2001 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor here, he also won a Golden Globe award. Judi Dench and Kate Winslet are also both more than worthy nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Judi Dench received a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Iris.

A really great movie.

Made 2001. Directed by Richard Eyre

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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Movies


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Another Year

Sometimes it’s difficult to describe the richness of a movie when nothing particularly interesting happens in the plot. This movie is an example.  “Another Year” is a glimpse of the everyday lives of Gerri (played by Ruth Sheen) and Tom (by Jim Broadbent) who are happily married and have lived a very comfortable English suburban life together for many years. Their leisure time is spent in their much loved allotment and they are very content with their ordinary lives.  We meet the couple in Spring and observe their lives through four full seasons.

Gerri is a professional counsellor and Tom is an engineer/geologist. Their contentment is only distracted by the intrusion of their range of friends, colleagues and family who descend on them to share their problems and try to absorb some of Gerri and Tom’s goodwill. Gerri and Tom always feel that they need to “be there” for their friends to help them through each of their seemingly unending crises. The main interruptors are Mary (by Lesley Manville) who is Gerri’s colleague and a good friend – she is single, lonely, drinks too much and always goes too far when she’s had too many – she can be cringe-worthy; and Joe,(by Oliver Maltman), he is also single, also lonely and the reluctant recipient of Mary’s flirtations. There are other friends and family who go through their own trials and challenges during this year – apart from knowing Gerri and Tom, the one thing they all have in common is that they all seem to live in some state of unhappiness.

The movie is good because you will no doubt recognise the issues, personalities, scenarios and the relationships played out here – in some way. Tom and Gerri (yes …) are just the kind of people you know do really exist just over your back fence and the story is real – sometimes funny, sometimes it gives you a warm glow, sometimes you feel empathy and other times irritation at the pathetic situations you are spectator to. The acting is great, well done to everyone for several enjoyable and believable characters. My favourite character – the pathetic and fragile Mary – it is a wonderful performance by Lesley Manville.

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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Movies


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The Iron Lady

We meet Margaret Thatcher (played by Meryl Streep) when she is aged and reminiscing. At this stage, she still has an intermittent public role where she attends formal functions from time to time, but her days of high level politics and media exposure are long behind her. A memoir has recently been published and Margaret is living in a world dominated by her memories. The key points of her life are depicted in snippets through her own reflections. We learn about her schoolgirl days, the influence of her grocer father, her early days in politics, life with her husband Denis (by Jim Broadbent), early family life with her two children and her gradual rise to leadership of the British Conservative (Tory) Party with eventual role as British Prime Minister. She is portrayed as a woman focussed on her job and the politics of the time – the family are almost a distraction for her.

I am not familiar enough with the other British political figures of the time (with the exception of Michael Hesseltine and John Major) but others may recognise some of the relevant characters in this story. However, I did remember the political issues referred to such as the UK coal miner’s strike and the Falklands War – both of which bore the strong leadership of Mrs Thatcher. There is no comment in the movie regarding the political events, they are merely there as milestones in time and to demonstrate Margaret’s rise in political status in the UK and globally.

In general, the story is all about Margaret the woman – Meryl Streep plays her marvellously. The makeup is excellent – so much so that at first I wasn’t sure whether I was looking at Streep or not – and her portrayal of Mrs Thatcher is excellent. Jim Broadbent’s performance as Denis is also very well done.  Other reviewers have stated that without Streep’s excellent performance, this movie would be dull as all the other characters are grey, faceless and nameless people.  I agree with that (except for Denis Thatcher) but I think that is the right way for this movie to have been made – it’s not a political drama, nor a statement about the economics of the time. It’s about Margaret – and it’s very good.

Post Script: Meryl Streep won both the BAFTA and the Academy Award (Oscar) of Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in this movie.

Directed by Phillida Lloyd.

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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in Movies


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