Wednesday, November 27, 2013
The best experiences for me as a film critic come from sitting down in front of a film that has absolutely no buzz at all, and of which I know absolutely nothing about, and being blown away by it. And that's what happened to me when I saw 'Philomena' at the Philadelphia Film Festival last month. It was one of the standout films I saw there, and has generated great word of mouth since.
Steve Coogan plays a recently fired broadcaster looking to return to the world of journalism, when he decides to take on a human interest story to help a woman (Dame Judi Dench) track down the child she hasn't seen for 50 years.
We all know Dench as a great actress, quite comfortable in her wheelhouse of British drama. (Let's face it, they don't knight you for nothing.) But those of us in America who are familiar with Steve Coogan primarily know him as a brilliant comedian. Though lately Coogan has made several attempts to show us his more serious side. This year alone we had 'The Look of Love' and 'What Maisie Knew', both showcasing his skill as a dramatic actor, but neither film turning out exceptional, despite his efforts. But the third time's the charm for him, and both Coogan and Dench deliver some of the finest performances of the year in this film, which also happens to be the best drama of the year, in my opinion.
There are so many things I love about it that I don't know where to begin. For one, I love how the story unfolds. With so many movies, it's obvious within the first 15 minutes where the film is going. I hate that. This one keeps you entertained and curious from start to finish. And equally important, as I mentioned above, the performances are top notch. Coogan finally shows us that his skills as a dramatic actor equal if not exceed his comedy chops. And Dench nails her role as well. Most importantly, the chemistry of this odd couple is so strong and honest it almost feels like voyeurism. If you love a great drama, do yourself a favor and go and see this film this weekend and then you can thank me on here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.