Thursday, June 11, 2015

Olive Kitteridge 2014

The other day, a facebook friend put up a post about the lack of opportunities for actresses 50 and over and mentioned a few who are still vital and working. She then asked her friends to name any actresses that we like who are of that age and still working. The list was impressive and I mentioned Frances McDormand who is 58. A woman who appeared to have had no success at all in her acting ventures and appeared angry and bitter responded to my post with “well she’s married to a famous director”. I replied, “So what, he’s married to one of our greatest actresses.”
                   I mention this because that very night I watched the first two hours (I finished the last two hours the next night) of “Olive Kitteridge” in which McDormand gives one of the greatest performances that I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Yes I fell in love with her the minute I saw her in her first film “Blood Simple” back in 1984 and my admiration for her has only grown. The 4 hours mini-series (which she also served as an executive producer) is based on the Pulitzer Prize novel by Elizabeth Strout. The film set in a picturesque small town in Maine covers 25 years in the life of Olive a middle school math teacher and her marriage to Henry a pharmacist and their son Christopher. Cranky unloving on the surface and hard to get along with, this is one nasty pitted Olive who gives everyone a very bumpy ride. There are some dark secrets but happily we are not hit over the head with obvious plot devices to make us feel confident and comfortable in understanding this complicated woman and her relationships with her husband, son and the people of the town.
              The film goes back and forth in time and characters who were children in one episode are suddenly grown in the next, which kept me on my toes sometimes in following the story, but that’s a small quibble. Also in the cast is Richard Jenkins as her husband who is also superb, and too brief turns by Rosemarie DeWitt, Ann Dowd and Bill Murray along with a longer appearance by Zoe Kazan. There are incidents that are zany; an emergency stop over at a hospital turns into something unexpected along with sudden deaths and lots of despair and depression. I also liked all the rich small details in the film including the art direction and the clothes, check out Olive’s homemade dress she makes for her son’s wedding and the beautiful score by Carter Burwell and the elegant cinematography by the great Frederick Elmes.


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