Friday, November 29, 2013

Judi Dench in "Philomena"

Enjoying a long holiday weekend, I decided to catch a showing of Philomena this morning.   Dame Judi Dench has been getting rave reviews, and with the film currently at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes I thought I better size up the "competition."  I know, I know, film awards shouldn't be about competing, but I expect Meryl to be in contention for recognition for her work in August: Osage County so it's fun to have motivation to do a bit of comparative shopping on this Black Friday.

The crux of the story is that Dench portrays real-life woman Philomena Lee, an Irish woman had her out-of-wedlock son taken away from her while staying in a convent.  She is helped in her quest to find him fifty years later by a journalist who has been convinced to write a human interest story about the effort.

My gut reaction was that Dench was very effective (as usual) in her portrayal of Lee and I overall enjoyed the film.  But I can't help feeling that the story itself is best thing when compared to both the film and Dench's performance.  Without going into spoiler territory, the fact that it was a true story was almost unbelievable, in that reading the events of Lee's life at the convent may have given me just as strong of a reaction as if I were to see it unfold onscreen.  This doesn't take away from how well the film is directed by Stephen Frears or the excellent jobs that both Dench and her co-star Steve Coogan manage to do.  It just didn't seem like a portrayal that was something drastically different from what I've seen from Dench give us before.  

I would not consider this the best performance I've seen from Dench in her career.  Her turns in Mrs. Brown and Notes on a Scandal are superior in my book, and in a year with so many heavy performances from major players in high-profile films, I think it'll be tough to squeak out a win for the Oscar.  I'd be shocked if she were not nominated, however.  Among the top contenders I've seen so far this season for Best Actress, I'd rank their performances as follows:

1. Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
2. Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
3. Judi Dench (Philomena)
4. Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

I'm very much looking forward to seeing Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color), Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) and Amy Adams (American Hustle) in the coming weeks.  


  1. Haha Jeff, so we have finally got a ranking out of you! Do you feel completely objective saying Meryl is the best performer you have seen here so far? If so I am very excited.

    I have seen the other 3 and I would actually rank Dench above Bullock. Both were great but I just felt a little more moved by Judi in a very good role. Pleased that Sandra is getting the aclaim she desired too, she has proved her critics wrong.

    As we said before, if Dench had won for Mrs Brown it is unlikely she could outstrip Meryl now, but who knows. I do hope Thompson dodges a nomination this year. Mean of me I know but she stole The Remains of the Day so ha!

    I think the final nomination should go to a newcomer if Adams isn't lead or worthy. Nice to be inclusive. I am also pleased that Winslet will likely not be nominated as it means she cannot break Meryl's record of 7 nominations before Age 38.

    I also hope Jennifer Lawerence is left off the ballot this year. She was very lucky to win last year, if Blanchett or Dench had their film out in 2012 they would have won.

    Out of interest, from the films you've seen, how do you see Best Supporting lining up so far? If Julia is put here would she perhaps win? (I know it's so hard to say atm, especially with the politics of the academy!)

  2. I don't know if I could ever be completely objective about Meryl. I try my hardest to remain objective, but truly if I do that, I don't know how Meryl ever loses? She's the best. To answer your question, with how much Meryl has to negotiate in her character compared to the others, and how well she managed that, and from comments I've seen in recent weeks from her cast mates...I give her the edge. I do not think she will win and is probably 4th-5th in line for likely Oscar nom.

    If I were to rank best supporting chances (not my preferences) for Oscar it would be:

    1. Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
    2. Oprah WInfrey (Lee Daniels' the Butler)
    3. June Squibb (Nebraska)
    4. Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
    5. Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)

    alt. Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station)

    1. I agree that she is unlikely to win, I am just hoping that this one goes in the jar for the future. I also hope the other awards are spread out with Meryl at least getting a Golden Globe and some critics awards. I would love for her to get the BAFTA too but they will likely give it to Judi or Cate. By rights I think they should at least give her the SAG as well as she deserved it for The Iron Lady and that loss ruined her clean sweep!