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IRIS (R)
Miramax
Official Site
Director: Richard Eyre
Producers: Scott Rudin, Robert Fox
Written by: Richard Eyre; from books by John Bayley
Cast: Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Eleanor Bron, Penelope Wilton, Juliet Aubrey, Samuel West

Rating: out of 5


Iris, the biopic of Dame Iris Murdoch, based on two books by her husband, John Bayley, is mercifully only 90 minutes long. This Academy Award-nominated movie is a prestige picture all the way, but does not live up to its advance press. Director Eyre tells the story of this writer and philosopher by juxtaposing her youthful self (played by Winslet, often naked) with the mere shell she becomes (Dench) after developing Alzheimer's disease in her later years. This is occasionally confusing as to persons. Some characters who were shown fleetingly in Murdoch's youth loom much larger in her later years, and the whos and whys are not quite clear. Others, like her lover Maurice (a hot, sulky West) disappear entirely for years. Yes, yes, that happens in life, but then he shows up again as if he's been a regular part of Murdoch's circle. Confusing.

The wonderful performances we've come to expect from actors like Dench, Winslet, and especially Broadbent are here. Hugh Bonneville was also good as the young Bayley, a kind of Jimmy Corrigan who can't believe he's even in the same orbit as this woman, let alone a serious suitor. Despite excellent acting, it's never clear what made Murdoch such a gem. She's sexually free, yet rather cold; thoughty but not especially thoughtful; interested in love more in theory than in application. Likewise the story of her descent into Alzheimer's is lacking. Yes, it's a sad thing to watch the essence of Murdoch being slowly erased, especially while she's still conscious of it. But it's not particularly any sadder than, say, your unfamous Aunt Edna's similar fate. As one who trafficks in words, I could certainly relate to Murdoch's terror at having them just depart; very scary indeed. Dench's portrayal of a woman slipping away, piecemeal, was so harrowingly real that my inability to remember exactly where I parked the car when I left the theater nearly brought on a full-blown panic attack.

In the end, though, the chiefest measure of this sort of movie is, "Am I now more interested in the subject?" It's too bad, but watching Iris engendered no further interest in reading anything by or about Murdoch or Bayley.

Roxanne Bogucka

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



none now
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