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"Iris"

Directed by Richard Eyre.
Written by Richard Eyre and Charles Wood.
Starring Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent. 
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  2/21/02 

Folks--

Seeing that "Iris" garnered three acting nominations for the upcoming Oscars, I thought it wise to check this thing out in its re-release at the local arthouse movie theater.

My question with films like these is always the same:  all of the actors in the film got nominated...but why isn't the FILM nominated for much?  Similar to "Leaving Las Vegas" and "Affliction" in recent years, "Iris" features outstanding performances by Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet, but the film isn't nearly as good as the acting.  Sadly, most of this has to do with the way director Richard Eyre cuts between the young Iris Murdoch (Winslet) and the Alzheimer's-afflicted older Iris (Dench); at a trim 90 minutes, that doesn't leave much room for story development, so all we get are two distinct sets of scenes:

Younger Iris loves sex, skinny dipping and talking about a book that she has just finished writing.  She seems to love a goofy-looking, stuttering genius named John (Hugh Bonneville), but to show her love, she rides bikes with him, and kisses his arm.  Oh, and she cheats on him like nobody's business.

Older Iris starts out being considered as England's greatest contemporary writer...in the first scene of the film.  In the following four scenes, she goes from genius, to a woman who can't spell the word "puzzle", to a woman who forgets where she is, to a woman that may be out-and-out insane.

And, all of that comes in the first 45 minutes.

The progression of these characters leaves much to be desired, but that doesn't stop the performers from acting their hearts out.  The best of the bunch is clearly Broadbent ("Topsy-Turvy", "Moulin Rouge"), who plays Iris' husband as part comedian, part overprotective father and he is a joy to watch.  Both my friend Melissa Kern and I both thought that Winslet seemed to earn her Oscar nod by showing her breasts way too much in this film; I actually wanted the filmmakers to stop showing them by the end of this thing.  And, Dench--what can be said?  She shows up on a film set, and unless it is a James Bond film, she gets nominated.  She is her normal self here, but for whatever reason, she got nominated again for an Oscar.  She has been far better in other works, but she DOES get the audience to tear up near the end and Kern was near-bawling by the time the credits rolled.

Bring some Kleenex, especially if you like your chick flicks emotional.  Too bad the film isn't as good as the acting.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09