I’ve seen three wonderful movies in the past two weeks, all jam packed with good performances by women, many of them older women. If you’re paying attention at all at most movies, you’ve noticed:
1) that older actresses are conspicuous by their absence
2) that the roles that most women get are either as girlfriends or whores
Well here are three movies in a completely different vein.
Wild plot, three generations of women in a Spanish family learn about their past and their present, resourceful women confronted with difficult situations and coming up with creative solutions. The movie is in Spanish with subtitles, but I didn’t find that too difficult to handle. And Penelope Cruz is fantastic at the center of it all. She richly deserves her nomination for the best actress Oscar. She plays Raimunda, a woman supporting a useless husband and raising her daughter while working very hard to keep everything together.
But she’s not the only star of this film. The young actress playing her daughter is also very good. She did well in a scene partway through where she has difficulties with her step-dad. But what I loved early on was a scene where three older women are conversing in the foreground and she’s off in the background on her cell phone. I’ve got a daughter, that’s exactly what a teenager would do while her mom was talking with her aunt and an older friend. It felt exactly true to life.
And of course, there’s Carmen Maura playing an older woman who makes a surprise entrance partway through. I could tell you more but that would spoil the surprise. It’s great to see an older actress getting such a juicy role. The plot thickens and thickens as layers of history are revealed until we finally understand the dark secrets of this family’s past.
The film was directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Madame Musing tells me that he’s well known as a director who does a fantastic job showing women’s lives.
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Here’s a sweet, slightly naughty movie about an older widow who decides to open a theater in 1930’s London. Then, when the shows need a bit of spice to pick up business, she suggests they add nude women to the bill. Judi Dench does a star turn as Laura Henderson. Her principal foil is Vivian van Damm played by Bob Hoskins. The movie is by turns funny, touching, patriotic. Watching Mrs. Henderson’s speech to keep the theater open during the blitz was really stirring.
Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont
Here’s the third in our trifecta. Joan Plowright stars as an older woman trying something new to live out her remaining years at a residential hotel in London. Things aren’t going well until one day, after an accident in a London street, she meets a young man played by Rupert Friend. And her new friend is so wonderful, she claims him as her grandson, introducing him to her compatriots at the Claremont. They’ve been wondering when her grandson, whom she’s told them all about, was going to make an appearance. The movie could have gotten very silly at that point. But it never does. Instead it goes in several very moving directions and ends showing a real bond between the two lead characters.
So here are three very good movies with loads of soul and some great actresses for you to enjoy. I heartily recommend all of these for your renting pleasure.