by Sue Wurster
When it comes to movies and videos, my taste tends to run to all things British, and in this first installment of our monthly “Screening Room” feature, I thought I’d share a few gems starring my favorite British “Great Dames” Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith.
You may not have run across Dame Judi in the 2014 British made-for-television gem, ESIO TROT. Based on a story by Roald Dahl, Dench plays a sweet widow living in an apartment house for mature residents. Her new upstairs neighbor, Mr. Hoppy (Dustin Hoffman), soon notices the lovely lady as he waters the lush plants in his terrace garden. This is a sweet, warm romance well worth searching out.
In 2012, Dame Judi made a very short TV movie called FRIEND REQUEST PENDING in which she and a friend spend an afternoon exploring the world of social media networking. A wonderful piece about love and lifelong friendship.
Dame Joan Plowright in MRS. PALFRY AT THE CLAREMONT is a 2005 gem. Essentially abandoned by her family after moving her into the Claremont Hotel, Mrs. Palfry ends up enjoying a wonderful friendship with a young writer.
And for anyone who loves a good comic mystery, WIDOWS PEAK is not to be missed. The lovely young Edwina (Natasha Richardson) moves into Widows Peak, where a surprising number of residents fit that description, and stirs up the social scene. Great fun!
And then, there’s dear Dame Maggie. Ah…Maggie–she just keeps going! Her most recent venture, THE LADY IN THE VAN is the true story of playwright Alan Bennett’s relationship with an eccentric homeless woman who parked her van temporarily in his driveway…and remained there for fifteen years. Beautifully done.
And if you didn’t catch this 2003 HBO Made-for-TV movie, give MY HOUSE IN UMBRIA a try. After a terrorist bomb is detonated on a train in Italy, Mrs. Delahunty, a rather eccentric romance novelist, opens her villa to three stranded survivors.
One of my favorites includes all three of my cinematic idols–so, if you haven’t seen TEA WITH MUSSOLINI, it’s a must. And if you have, it may be time for another visit. It’s a lush, semi-autobiographical Zeffirelli production about a young boy being brought up by a group of British woman during (and after) World War II.
Lily Tomlin (a different sort of dame altogether) is in this one as well, and I recently saw GRANDMA on “On Demand.” Lily plays a poet who hasn’t written since losing her partner. When her pregnant teenage granddaughter appears on her doorstep, she is quick to rise to the occasion to help her.
Share YOUR favorites in an upcoming “Screening Room” feature!