How About You

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Posted November 19, 2008 in Film

Like many, I’m pleased when veteran (read: old) actors get work. But it’s about time they form a union to demand better roles than Cranky Kook Near Death. Until then, we all must endure amiable nonsense like Anthony Byrne’s hospice dramedy about a rebellious twenty-something named Ellie (Hayley Atwell) who enlightens—and is enlightened by—the five most miserable oldsters at her estranged sister Kate’s (Orla Brady) care center. Or, we could do what most people will and pay lip service to its stars but dodge sitting through the film itself. Nestled in the green, river-running-through-it Irish countryside, Kate’s retirement home is hemorrhaging residents and employees due to the outrageous behavior of its worst inhabitants: catty Alice (Joan O’Hara), unstable former actress Georgia (Vanessa Redgrave), domineering judge Donald (Joss Ackland), and squabbling sisters Heather (Brenda Fricker) and Hazel (Imelda Staunton). Of course we know what’s coming: hugs, sharing, and philosophy. But either acclaimed novelist Maeve Binchy—the pen behind Circle of Friends—must have temporarily swapped out her brains for tapioca or screenwriter Jean Pasley has made a mess of this adaptation. The timing is in shambles; at one point, a character opens up her heart only to get underwhelmingly carted away in a hearse in the very next scene. Like a UK holiday pudding, this sop-headedness offers at least the mild pleasurable buzz of watching these actors devour their roles as though they were more then a series of quirks. They might all be the same species of wounded bird, lonely with one furtive talent, but Redgrave, O’Hara, Ackland, Fricker, and Staunton tear into their parts as though the Academy is still dispensing awards like a gumball machine to any actor who admits that old people can be bastards. They—and audiences—should hold out for more. (Amy Nicholson)

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