Posts Tagged ‘Penelope Wilton’

Our Own Private World

The Guernsey Literary &

Potato Peel Pie Society

Director: Mike Newell

Cast: Lily James, Glen Powell, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay, Michiel Huisman, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Brown Findlay, Nicolo Pasetti

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has to be one of the longest names for a film ever. Yet despite its convoluted title is a richly rewarding film directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral).

At the centre of this extraordinary tale set during and immediately after World War II in London and in Guernsey is a remarkable performance by British star Lily James as writer Juliet Ashton who discovers that the population of Guernsey have so immensely courageous World War stories to tell during the German occupation of this island.

In fact, not only did they survive the war, the close knit community even formed a literary and potato peel pie society – a private world whereby a small group of book lovers could discuss English literature from Shakespeare to the Bronte sisters over an extraordinary dish a potato peel pie, made without butter or cream.

In the midst of the private literary society is a mystery which Juliet Ashton uncovers about one of Guernsey’s more infamous residents Elizabeth McKenna wonderfully played with daring bravado by Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay (Victor Frankenstein).

Members of this private literary society include the dashing pig farmer Dawsey Adams played by Dutch heartthrob Michiel Huisman from Game of Thrones fame, Amelia Maugery played by Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) and Eben Ramsey played by Oscar nominee Tom Courtenay (The Golden Compass, Nicholas Nickleby, Doctor Zhivago, The Dresser).

Juliet’s extravagant and confident American boyfriend is played by Glen Powell (Hidden Figures, Expendables 3), by what really makes The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society so fascinating is the layered historical story it tells about the inhabitants of the Channel Islands during the German Occupation.

Without giving the story away, this is a richly rewarding British war film held together by a strong classically trained cast, superbly directed by Mike Newell.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing for lovers of uniquely British historical war films.

A Blissful and Marvellous Reunion

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

2nd_best_exotic_marigold_hotel_ver2

Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, Richard Gere, Ronald Pickup, David Strathairn, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy, Tamsin Greig

After the surprise success of the delightful 2012 film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, it is no wonder that director John Madden decided to do a companion film and organize a more extravagant and blissful reunion of the cast of the first film with newcomers Richard Gere, no longer the Gigolo, and David Strathairn to make up the male parts for the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel set in Jaipur, Mumbai and San Diego.

Whilst the original film was a sort of bitter-sweet adventure, the second film is a celebration and continuation of everything so wonderful and colourful about the possibility of spending one’s Twilight years in the exotic location of Jaipur. This is Shady Pines with colour and vibrancy, wit and humour and proves that the older generation of actors can still pull off a charming and marvellous sequel infused with the energetic Sonny wonderfully played again by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) and his impending wedding to Sunaina played by Tina Desai.

In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny has big plans for expansion and hopes to acquire another rambling hotel in Jaipur to extend his collection of gorgeous establishments for the aged and semi-retired. The scenes between Patel and veteran actress Maggie Smith are crackling with wit and exuberance especially as they approach a major hotel chain based in San Diego for some much needed venture capital to expand their business enterprise.

Back in India, director John Madden expands his palette from the first film and each shot of The Second Best Marigold Hotel is a simulacrum of all the great films made about that subcontinent from David Lean’s A Passage to India and Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding making for a positively blissful and gorgeous cinematic reunion.

Subtly directed and beautifully acted, although the story is at times whimsical, each of the British actors from Celia Imrie and Diana Hardcastle to Ronald Pickup and Bill Nighy have more scope and depth in this companion piece which will surely delight all audiences who so enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Silver haired Richard Gere’s role as an enigmatic guest Guy Chambers and seducer of Sonny’s mom add to the romance of the Jaipur establishment. The structure of the film is centred around the marriage of Sonny and Sunaina from the lavish engagement party to the actual flamboyant and vibrant wedding. Intertwined with the portrait of young love, is the growing affection between Evelyn and Douglas played with the usual quirkiness by Bill Nighy.

The scenes between Dench and Smith are poignant and nuanced, both Oscar winning accomplished actresses as they give viewers a sense that their imminent cinematic retirement is drawing near, yet their stardom will last forever. Oscar winners Maggie Smith and Judi Dench have had amazing stage and screen careers and it is encouraging to see them still commanding the big screen in an age of the digital blockbuster.

2nd_best_exotic_marigold_hotel_ver3

Whilst The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not as brilliant or as unique as the first film, it still stands on its own as a delightfully fine companion piece. Judging how packed the cinema was, there is a huge market out there for these gorgeous films aimed at retired viewers who are not always willing to sit through some of the Hollywood commercial cinema which makes up the bulk of the studio releases.

The Second Best Marigold Hotel is recommended viewing for those that enjoyed the first film, and similar movies like Enchanted April, Tea with Mussolini and Ladies in Lavender.

 

 

The Zong Massacre

Belle

belle_ver2

Director: Amma Asante
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Tom Felton, Sam Reid, Matthew Goode, Sarah Gadon, James Norton

South African British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race woman who has the fortune to be rescued by her father and installed at the Hampstead home of his Uncle William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, who also happens to be the Lord Chief Justice for the infamous Zong trial which featured prominently in British society at the end of the 18th century.

The Zong Massacre – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zong_massacre revolved around a British slave ship which jettisoned half its cargo including a great many slaves in the West Indies, drowning them in the Caribbean Sea because there was not enough drinking water on board the slave ship while heading from modern day Ghana to Jamaica.

The Liverpool merchant owners of the slave ship sought insurance compensation for lost cargo which caused a public trial and an outcry back in England as it highlighted the horrors of the 18th century slave trade, naturally bringing up the age old question of can there ever be a price put on a human life. The history of the Zong trial and the massacre of the slaves on board takes centre stage in director Amma Asante’s riveting and slightly contrived social-historical drama Belle.

Like Amazing Grace, Belle centres on the last decades of the British slave trade and portrays a society on the brink of change. Set in England in the 18th century under the reign of King George III (the mad one!), Dido Elizabeth Belle –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dido_Elizabeth_Belle tells the story of Dido Belle a mixed race heiress and under the guardianship of Lord Mansfield must navigate her way despite her title and wealth through the apparent prejudices of 18th century British society.

Dido_Elizabeth_BellePainting by Johann Zoffany, 1779

Accompanied by her first cousin Elizabeth Murray, played by Canadian actress Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, A Dangerous Method), who was without a dowry, Belle and Elizabeth need to secure suitable husbands, both of which apparently come in the form of the Ashford brothers James and Oliver played by British actors James Norton (Rush) and Tom Felton of the Harry Potter franchise.

However Belle or Dido as she is referred to in the film has her sights set on an ambitious abolitionist lawyer John Davinier, played by Australian actor Sam Reid (Anonymous) who is assisting the 1st Earl of Mansfield in the legal case regarding the Zong Question as it was politely known in 1783.

belle

Ably assisted by a consummate script written by Misan Sagay, Belle is an absorbing and intelligent social-historical drama, similar to the Michael Apted film Amazing Grace with less of the apparent cruelty of Steve McQueen’s Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave.

Belle, along with a nuanced performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw features a superb supporting cast including Emily Watson (The Book Thief), Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel & Downton Abbey series) and the brilliant Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) as the Earl of Mansfield who takes Belle under his guardianship at Kenwood House, Hampstead.

This is a fascinating portrait of England at the end of the 18th century, whereby race and politics as well as class and legitimacy ruled a conservative society constricted further by prejudice and ruled by desire for European commercial superiority, which despite its horrors was the main reason that the slave trade come into existence and historically changed  the West African, European and Caribbean demographics. For lovers of historical drama with a social conscience, Belle is recommended viewing and an exceptionally interesting film.

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