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Film Reviews

"ANOTHER YEAR” A film review by Linda Bergman


Yet another comedy/drama from the Brits!


I thought, after seeing the bright and bushy-tailed Made In Dagenham, that Another Year was so unassuming even its Oscar buzz couldn’t help. I was sure I’d never think about it again. But I was seriously wrong. I’m thinking about it nonstop. The performances are so remarkable they carry you through its maze of personal involvements.
Everyone who follows director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Topsy Turvy) knows that, like Woody Allen, he uses the same coterie of actors in most of his films. This  character-driven, year-in-the-life tale is no different. What everyone might NOT know is that Mike Leigh starts work without a script or even a hint as to what the script will be about.
“He calls us on the phone,” says actress Lesley Manville, (Vera Drake, The Queen) and then we work together for about eighteen weeks improvising scenes until characters are fleshed out and a plot is decided. Then Mike goes away, writes the script and the film is shot like any other.”  

Friend and mutual film buff Hutton Cobb who saw Manville and actor Jim Broadbent at a Screen Actor's Guild event, reports that when asked how they felt about Leigh’s nominations for best screenplays ( Secrets and Lies, Vera Drake) when it was their dialogue being used, they answered:


“We’re used to it.”
Manville and Broadbent (Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake, Harry Potter), who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Iris, spoke to our group as well.

The affable actor made us laugh as he spoke with wit and candor. He said he enjoyed working with his friends, Ruth Sheen (Vanity Fair, High Hopes) and Manville, but also wanted us to know...

“You don’t want to do two Mike Leigh films back to back. It’s exhausting!”
Sheen, who from the Linda Bergman perspective, should be nominated for an Academy Award for the honesty and ease with which she performs. She plays Gerri to Broadbent’s Tom, a successfully long-married couple who are besieged by miserable friends and family, especially Mary (Manville), Gerri’s single co-worker who is not aging well and drinking too much.
The story is set against the four seasons. (Yes, I know, you’ve never seen that device before(:) It begins in Spring with what is or isn’t growing in Gerri and Tom’s allotment, or what we in America would call a community garden. Using the wonders/perils of each season as a metaphor for the birth and death that occur in a given year, Leigh digs up a lot of dirt, stirring uncomfortable emotions about the choices we make in life.  

We have all had sorry souls pass through our lives and maybe have even been one ourselves, flopping on our friend’s sofas and boring them with our troubles. Mis-billed as a comedy drama, we find ourselves begging for a good laugh as a deep sadness permeates the film even when there is cause for celebration. Mary is such a train wreck and so frozen in timethat she secretly fancies a relationship with Gerri and Tom’s son, Joe, whom she has baby sat since he was a toddler.  When he announces his engagement, Mary is struck with a reality she recognizes but cannot accept.

Though many will call it art,  the ending feels to me like Leigh and his band of cohorts painted themselves into a corner.  It could also be that this is a chick-flick but my decidedly virile mate says “Nope!”  So, you be the judge.
It’s rated PG 13, runs for 129 minutes and is set to open December 29th just in time to qualify for the Academy Awards.


"I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS” A film review by Linda Bergman


I didn't know what to expect from the makers of "Bad Santa" besides nudity, foul language and quirky, blush-provoking humor.  And this romantic, comedy/drama packs a flowery, fucking shit load of it.
Starring a frayed-looking, bone-thin Jim Carrey (the leanness is a pivotal plot point) and a dewy-eyed Ewan McGregor, it is at once shocking, touching, irreverent and for my money, very brave.  There is a reason it took so long to get a distributor.
The film, which premiered at Sundance in 2009, contains graphic gay sexual content, which long delayed it's  distribution possibilities in the US. Finally, Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment picked up this story in which Carrey and McGregor play cellmates who fall in love.
"This really happened.  It really did."

The film's writer/directors spell it out for us in the first frame.  And I almost bought in until I read in the End Credits:

"A dramatization based on certain facts."

 Okay. Fine. Some of it happened and some of it didn't.  Which really doesn't matter if it's a GREAT story and as long as you don't call it a memoir, right? (Someone ask James Frey.)  

This was a doozy of a story, but great? Not so much.  But I'd give it a 6 or 7.

The story begins with STEVE RUSSELL (Carrey) on his deathbed recalling the events that got him there. ( I know, you've never seen this device used either.) We know two things about him so far.  He was adopted and is in a desperate search for the love he didn't get from his mother. Oh, and secondly, when he looks at cloud formations, he sees giant penises.

A horrible car crash changes him from being happily married to sweet Texas Bible pounder, DEBBIE, played by Leslie Mann(The Cable Guy, Funny People) into a flamboyantly gay lothario in South Beach.  His first boyfriend, JIMMY,  played by hunky Rodrigo Santoro, (soon to star as Che in Steven Sodebergh's new film of the same name) demands a lifestyle too rich for Steve's wallet. Since Steve will do anything  for love, he begins to con.

Lie, cheat, steal?  He does it effortlessly.  When the other shoe drops, Steve is sent to the slammer where he finds his soul mate, PHILLIP MORRIS (McGregor). When they are separated, Steve finds he cannot be without his true love and hatches an elaborate plan to get them both out of jail and live the life they dream of together. And off we go! One impersonation wilder than the next until all dreams are realized.  But is it too good to last?

 I laughed out loud, was impressed at how restrained Carrey played this role, and was bowled over by Ewan McGregor's committed performance. They played their love scenes with such passion and tenderness, it was hard to think of them as unusual in any way. A little squirming but, well...

Fun IMDB stuff: In the last scene in the courtroom, the real Phillip Morris can be seen standing next to Jim Carrey, and while on set In New Orleans at the Orleans Parish Prison, one of the extras dressed as an OPP inmate was arrested while putting belongings in his personal vehicle.

This film is rated R for raunchy and is set to open Dec. 3. unless a court order stops it. Running time: 102 minutes:


"MADE IN DAGENHAM” A film review by Linda Bergman


“I am woman, hear me roar!”


…could have been the title for soon-to-be-released Sony Pictures Classics’ new film, MADE IN DAGENHAM, the true story based on the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, in which 187 female workers walked out in protest of sexual discrimination.


This political dramedy starring Bob Hoskins (“Hook”), Sally Hawkins ( “Happy Go Lucky”), Miranda Richardson (“The Hangover”) and Rosamund Pike ( “An Education”) follows the lives of a group of car upholstery seamstresses led by unassuming wife and mother RITA.( Hawkins)


Unlike their male counterparts in the automaker’s gleaming new main facility, the women toil in a decrepit old 1920s plant with a leaky roof, pigeons flying overhead and stifling sweatshop conditions in summer. Despite their highly specialized work, the women are classified as “unskilled labor” and paid a fraction of the men’s pay.

When sympathetic union rep ALBERT (Hoskins) encourages the women to bring their grievances to Ford management, Rita is coaxed into attending a meeting.  Albert reveals that his own mother worked herself into an early grave under such conditions and he wants to change things in her memory.


Outraged by the lack of respect accorded her and shop steward CONNIE, Rita surprises herself by speaking out sharply, saying the women refuse to be ignored and will strike immediately if they are not given equal pay.  The plant calls her bluff and the pigeon feathers fly!


These uneducated women go from being an annoyance to a possibly explosive situation for Ford. If these 187 cogs in the wheel set a precedent, they’ll have to grant women equal pay around the world. The car makers insist the local union reps squelch the strike. But Rita and her band of plucky friends will not be squelched. For many, this is the only “power” they’ve felt in their entire lives.

Sadly, their glow of camaraderie is temporary as the supply of seat upholstery runs out, the entire Dagenham plant is closed and the women’s husbands are put out of work as well. Relationships are challenged, refrigerators are repossessed, lights are turned off and the press turns the story into national headlines.


Throughout the campaign, the women rely on their sense of humor, common sense and stiff drink to stand together and face an increasingly belligerent community.  When an upper-class mother (Pike) at Rita’s son’s middle school and wife of the plant’s upper echelon, encourages her to stand her ground, and she gets a supportive call from BARBARA CASTLE, The Secretary of State For Employment, (Richardson) Rita changes the rules of the game not only for factory workers but for women everywhere.


Directed by Nigel Cole (“Calendar Girls”) on location in Wales and England, the feel is authentic and gritty. He took the script, he says, “…because he loves working with women and prefers character pieces to boring movies with car crashes and guns.”  Miranda, Richardson, also in attendance at the screening, says Cole “…was a warm, fuzzy director…” and that the entire production was fun from start to finish.

Cole revealed he got lucky when a washing machine factory closed just before the production start date in Pentrebach, Wales, and he was able to use it, and the real women who lost their jobs, as extras. Most of them had never seen a camera before and took to acting like headaches to cheap champagne. “Some of them were so good,” he reports,” I brought them to London and put them in every shot.”

What I enjoyed most was the performances, the texture of the locations and the reminders of the Carnaby Street era as the Dagenham girls are glued to the pop sights from London on the telly.  Oh, the beehives, Twiggy eye makeup and Mary Quant hot pants! These details may have been lost on the men in the audience, but every woman I noticed smiled in recognition of a fashion statement long-gone but not forgotten.

The cast is stellar even though the Cockney accents are so thick at times, we could have used sub titles. And I particularly LOVED seeing Hill Street Blues’ Richard Schiff return to the big screen as the oily Ford rep and Rosamund Pike’s fierce Cambridge-educated woman who’s stifled by a husband who prefers her to keep her opinions to herself.  She truly surprises in a role that is the complete opposite of the air head she played in “An Education”.


It’s a feel-good film that in real life led to the introduction of  an Equal Pay Act that became law in England in 1970.  Now, if we could only get a similar law passed in the U.S.!


Rated R for language and brief nudity.  Running time 113 minutes.

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