The Reeler

Recent Comments

FILM ON THE WEB

A Girl and a Gun
A_Film_By
Ain't It Cool News
Alliance of Women Film Journalists
Anne Thompson
Art Fag City
ArtFlickChick
Better Than Fudge
Big Picture Big Sound
Bitter Cinema
Blank Screen
Blogumentary
Brian Flemming
Bright Lights
Celluloid Eyes
CHUD
Chutry Experiment, The
Cinecultist
Cinema Confidential
Cinema Eye
Cinema-Scope
Cinemarati
Cinematical
CineMe
Coming Soon
Cool Cinema Trash
Cyndi Greening
Dark Horizons
Defamer
Drew's Blog-O-Rama
Errata
Esoteric Rabbit
Film Detail
Film Experience, The
Film Journal, The
Film Journey
Film Stew
Film Rotation
Flickhead
GreenCine Daily
Greg.org
Hacking Netflix
Hammer to Nail
High Sign, The
Hollywood Elsewhere
House Next Door, The
IFC Blog, The
In the Company of Glenn
IndieScene Movie Marketing Blog
indieWIRE.com
indieWIRE Blogs
Jay's Movie Blog
JoBlo's Movie Emporium
Kaiju Shakedown
Kamera
Kinoeye
Like Anna Karina's Sweater
Last Night with Riviera
Light Sleeper
Long Pauses
Looker
Masters of Cinema
Matt Zoller Seitz
Midnight Eye
Milk Plus
Mind Jack
Metaphilm
Movie Blog, The
Movie City Indie
Movie Hole, The
Movie Poop Shoot
New York Cool
NY Post Movie Blog
News of the Dead
No More Marriages!
Notes From Underdog
Out of Focus
Persistence of Vision
Pullquote
Queer Film Review
Reel Roundtable
ScreenGrab
Screen Rush
Screener (Film Journal Int.)
Screening the Past
Self-Styled Siren
Short Sheet, The
Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine Blog
Still in Motion
Stranger Song, The
They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?
Tisch Film Review
Twitch
Vince Keenan
World Film (at About.com)
You Know, For Film
Zoom-In

The Reeler Blog

"And Here I Was Being Offered This Funny Old Lady..."

As far as anguished, predatory lesbian misadventures go, Notes on a Scandal (opening today in New York, read Michelle Orange's review here) may be the film of the year. Judi Dench stars as Barbara, an ur-frump high school teacher whose 30-something colleague Sheba (Cate Blanchett) repels, then captivates her imagination with willowy blond pulchritude to spare. Alas, a big-sisterish friendship between the sociopath and her married-with-kids muse frays into thinly veiled courtship and then outright blackmail as Sheba is discovered having an affair with student Andrew Simpson. Secretly outed by Barbara as jealous revenge for both relapses and other adulterous advances, Sheba endures a media crush and social ostracization from which only Barbara can offer reprieve.

It's a stunning detour for Dame Judi and her fellow Oscar winner Blanchett, neither of whom flinch at the soapy, scenery-grinding wallow their characters face in director Richard Eyre's melodrama. "It's much more of a ride than people think it's going to be," said screenwriter Patrick Marber, the Closer scribe who adapted Zoe Heller's source novel for the actresses. "People think, 'Oh, God, it's going to be sort of a well-made, English piece of dowdy realism.' And it's not. It's quite camp, and it's totally entertaining."

For the most part, he's right; Dench is a gleefully wretched woman scorned, and Blanchett pairs vulnerability with culpability in a clever, sympathy-teasing tangle. As Sheba's older husband, however, Bill Nighy somehow manages to outdo even his castmates' hysteria; combined with Philip Glass's overbearing score, his performance cues viewers to all but cover their ears.

Marber told me in an interview last month that he sensed a similar danger once producer Scott Rudin enlisted him for the adaptation: How does one balance dynamics with all this pitched gracelessness?

"When I read the book, I thought, 'Oh, this is going to be really difficult to do,' " he said. "But I really wanted to do it because I thought that Barbara was just a hilarious movie protagonist -- such an unlikely protagonist for a film to have this mean old lady. It seemed like not the usual material that people would offer me for a start. Normally I get offered tortured romances with youngish people. And here I was being offered this funny old lady. That was attractive to me."

The challenge was especially severe for Dench, Marber continued. "Judi had played a lot of extraordinary characters, but never someone who was this miserably ordinary," he said. "So I think that was part of the thrill for her; she's quite a feisty person. She was never worried about how mean and unattractive Barbara was; she was worried people would just hate her. But we always said, 'No, no -- she's funny. People will love her in their way.' And I think they do."

Posted at December 27, 2006 3:15 PM

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.thereeler.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb-AjOOtIAl.cgi/320

Search The Reeler
Join the Mailing List

RSS Feed

Archives

Send a Tip