#Philomena: Surprise Tea And Talkies


The Dressmaker wasn’t shown: Maggie Smith [sic] and friend seize their chance instead…

On Monday (13th February), Millman Street Community Centre members were once again the guests of Holborn Community Association’s friends at the nearby Warner Brothers Cinema, where they were due to see The Dressmaker in the latest Tea & Talkies outing.

The flick is an Australian revenge comedy/drama, released in 2015.  Based on Rosalie Ham’s novel, The Dressmaker was directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, and starred Kate Winslet as a femme fatale.  The movie was nominated for several awards, and described by Moorhouse as [Clint Eastwood’s] “Unforgiven with a sewing machine.”

Cor!  Sounds good, eh?  Unfortunately, the film our members actually saw was Philomena.  So your HCA reporter’s ‘hours of diligent research’ [i.e: cribbing from proper critics’ reviews of The Dressmaker] was all for naught.

But hey, ho, there was a movie shown.  And this is, if not its story, then at least the tale of HCA members’ recollections of what went on in that movie.

So what was Philomena all about then, eh?  As it was on TV around Christmas time, this reporter – crammed with figgy pudding and festive glee – vaguely recalls that it starred Judy Dench as the titular Philomena, and Steve Coogan as journalist Martin Sixsmith, who told the former’s based-on-actual-events story in a book.  It was directed by Steven Frears, released in 2013, and nominated for several awards.

“It was set in Ireland,” David said.  “About women put in convents and their kids were taken off them.  Her [Philomena’s] son died of AIDS in America and was buried back at the convent.”

David, who grew up in Ireland, recalled that in the 1950s and ’60s, “Pregnant girls were taken to convents and made to do laundry, and wash pots and pans,” and so forth.  “The nuns took babies away from them.”

Philomena’s infant son had been sent to America to be adopted, had had his name changed and wound up working as a lawyer and government official during the Ronald Reagen and George Bush Sr administrations.   “It was good,” David declared of the film.

However, the movie was ruined for Ivy because of the [to her mind] woeful casting of Judy Dench: “I can’t stand her,” she said.  “I can’t stand that other one, either…what’s her name?”

Er, Maggie Smith?  “Yeah, that’s it.”   Dame Mags wasn’t actually in Philomena, but incurred Ivy’s wrath nonetheless.  But despite the film being, “Not my scene, this sort of thing,”she did allow that, “Steve Coogan wasn’t bad.”

Our own Steve opined that Philomena was “Good, well-acted.  It captured it [the true story] very well.  It made you want to punch the nuns after what they did.  I welled up a bit – when her son’s lover showed her the home movies of him.  He always wanted to see his mum, but the church told him she’d abandoned him.  Coogan acted well; he still had that selfishness [as Sixsmith].”

Margaret said of the film that, “It was alright.  There were only a few people in it and they did all of the talking in it.  It was quite good really.  In the end she [Philomena] found out about her son – he was gay and died of AIDS.  The nuns weren’t very nice,” she went on.  “Nobody spoke out about it.  She could have had more time with him [her son] before he died.”

There you have it: The Dressmaker will have to wait for another review on another day.  Possibly.

HCA would like to thank Warner Brothers Cinema for showing the film to our members and also, as ever, for providing tea and cakes afterwards.

Report by Notes Smudger

Is that it?  Not quite.

Admit it: You thought that there was no way that any film review featuring Steve Coogan would pass without mention of his much more famous television role.  Didn’t you?  Ooh, you liar!  But you were right:  despite his straight acting role as Martin Sixsmith in Philomena, Coogan is far better known as….Tommy Saxondale.  A-ha!

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