Thursday, 24 November 2016

Movie Review: Wild (2014)

One woman's literal and figurative journey to painful self-discovery, Wild is an exquisitely constructed drama, capturing the heart and intellect of a struggle to re-calibrate a life gone astray.

Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) places her life on hold and embarks on a solo hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 1,000 mile journey from the deserts of California to the Oregon rain forest. Along the way, she confronts her demons, seen in flashback snippets. Cheryl and her brother Leif were raised by their mother Bobbi (Laura Dern), a victim of spousal abuse who had little to offer her children except plenty of love, nurturing and a sunny disposition. Cheryl marries Paul (Thomas Sadoski), but the marriage has fallen apart after she descended into a life of drugs and random sex with strangers. Along the trail Cheryl has brief encounters with a variety of other locals and strangers, some funny and others scary, and pushes through the pain barrier and her own fears and inexperience, seeking to come to terms with her life.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée and written by Nick Hornby, Wild is an adaptation of Cheryl Straid's best-selling non-fiction book describing her 1995 hike. The film starts at the Mojave Desert trail head in southern California and ends 94 days later at the border between Oregon and Washington. And while there are plenty of on-trail experiences as the over-equipped but under-trained Cheryl grapples with what it means to live rough day and night, the important events are taking place in her head. Vallée and Hornby shine in opening up Cheryl's psyche, revealing her memories, thoughts, self-doubt and self-castigation through flashback fragments that slowly coalesce to create a picture of a life in need of a serious intervention.

Unlike the intolerably self-indulgent Elizabeth Gilbert in the saccharine Eat Pray Love, Cheryl knows she has messed up in the worst possible way. Her sex and drug addictions have destroyed her marriage and her remaining friends are pleading with her to get a grip. She embarks on the trail to find out what happened to the girl raised by Bobbi on nothing but love and optimism. The answers are not easy, but the film offers up moments of genuine and emotional discovery, driven by little surprises of achievement, fear and anxiety on the hiking trail.

Cheryl meets a gruff farmer who could have been menacing but who proves that looks and first impressions can be deceiving. Other encounters with an initially naked man, another solo woman, and a group of young men are just as enlightening. She encounters hunters who must be descendants of the Deliverance natives, and overcomes jagged rocks, exhaustion, dehydration, ill-fitting hiking boots and deep snow. She is happily stunned to learn that she has outlasted much more experienced hikers on the trail. All the while the memories are churning, the forces that defined her life become clear, and a path to salvation is charted.

Reese Witherspoon delivers a raw, honest performance, finding Cheryl's trauma and staying true to the reality of a woman stoically charting a new course in the company of herself. Laura Dern has a relatively short but pivotal role as her mother Bobbi. With a free and airy performance, Dern conveys what it means to be a perpetual idealist in the service of her children. Both women received Academy Award nominations.

Wild ends with unnecessary and rushed narration that appears too eager to package up Cheryl's story in a neat box. It's an unfortunate tone to conclude her adventure on, because Wild is about the universal human instinct to strike out in anger, in depression and in a mad search for recovery. Good or bad, wild instincts contribute to life, but rarely in an orderly manner.

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Friday, 18 November 2016

Movie Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

A war epic based on a true story, Hacksaw Ridge is the stunning story of a conscientious objector who stuck to his principles and found his purpose on a tortuous field of battle.

With World War Two rumbling to a start, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) from rural Virginia enlists in the Army. Desmond grew up to despise violence, having been raised in a strictly religious family dominated by his father Tom (Hugo Weaving), a drunk, abusive and emotionally damaged World War One veteran. Desmond refuses to carry a weapon, and wants to serve his country as a medic. His anti-violence stance as a conscientious objector who nevertheless volunteered confounds the army. His unit Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) tries to drum him out, while his squad mates, including Glover (Sam Worthington) and Riker (Luke Bracey) turn against him and label him a coward.

With help from an unlikely intervention by his father, Doss eventually gets his way, stays with the army, graduates as a medic, and marries his sweetheart, the nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer). His squad is dispatched to join the Battle of Okinawa, and quickly thrown into a meat grinder of a fight to dislodge the Japanese army from well-entrenched positions on top of a steep embankment labelled Hacksaw Ridge. With grim determination on both sides resulting in mass casualties on a brutal battlefield, the weaponless Doss will find his true calling.

Mel Gibson returns to the director's chair for the first time since 2006, and delivers a raw human story soaked in the blood and gore of battle. Hacksaw Ridge is an unflinching look at true heroism, and Gibson finds in Desmond Doss an assuming oddball, a deeply religious pacifist looking for his calling in the heat of battle. Doss won the Medal of Honor, and Hacksaw Ridge is a deeply satisfying salute to selfless courage.

The film is divided into three parts, with some flashbacks in the later scenes to fill in the gaps. The first third is an elegantly delivered coming of age love story, Desmond's background and formative years presented under the blazing sun of farm-bred innocence and the dark clouds of a damaged father figure. Key incidents from Doss's early life are efficiently presented, as he grows into a teenager willing to stand up to Tom, protective of his mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths), and dogged in his pursuit of the ethereal Dorothy.

The middle of the film is a search for self: Doss knows he wants to be in the army, is insistent that he wants to go war without a weapon, and is stubborn about both obsessions to the point of taking on an incredulous army establishment. Slowly he garners a grudging respect among the fellow trainees who don't understand him, but even the grunts and sergeants begin to admire something intangible in the gangly kid with a goofy attitude but a core of steel.

The foundations solidly laid, Gibson moves confidently into the final act, shifting gears and creating nothing less than hell on earth. Taking the opening 27 minutes of Saving Private Ryan as just a starting point in the realistic representation of battle, Hacksaw Ridge goes beyond what is easily imaginable, presenting a harrowing close-up vision of war and its destructive impact on bodies and souls.

The Battle of Okinawa is recognized as one of the bloodiest of the entire conflict, with estimates of up to 130,000 soldiers killed, and is cited as one of the core reasons the decision was made to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. Gibson does not flinch from what this level of human carnage means: in a series of battles at close quarters, men are torn to pieces, guts are spilled, partial torsos are used as bullet shields, and rats feast on human remains. Death rains in from all directions, and Gibson leaves no doubt what the field of combat can do to a man who survives the horror. Suddenly both Tom's descent into an alcohol-fuelled depression and Desmond's anti-war stance make perfect sense.

The camerawork in the combat zones is superb. Gibson along with cinematographer Simon Duggan and editor John Gilbert keep the images rational, the cameras fluid, up close but only slightly jerky. The images of brutality, death, and heroism never compete with stunt directing and micro editing.

Andrew Garfield is serviceable and stays loyal to Desmond's admittedly dopey persona. Vince Vaughn finally demonstrates some acting chops outside of lame comedies, and enjoys a tremendous entry scene, Sergeant Howell invading the barracks of the new army recruits and exposing them to his brand of discipline and humiliation. Sam Worthington and Luke Bracey are the most prominent of the many fellow soldiers who endure the war with Desmond and witness or benefit from his exceptional audacity.

Hacksaw Ridge is an instant classic war film, a story of true love, religious conviction, dedicated service and remarkable bravery set amidst the worst form of perdition.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Movie Review: Two Days, One Night (2014)

A drama about economic survival, Two Days, One Night explores the thin personal and civil strands that weave a society. A superlative Marion Cotillard performance helps to create gripping viewing.

It's Friday in a small suburban Belgian town, and factory worker Sandra (Cotillard) receives bad news: her sixteen crew mates at a cash-strapped solar panel manufacturing plant have voted that she lose her job so that they can each keep a €1,000 bonus. Sandra, a married mother of two, was vulnerable because she was off work suffering from depression, and her absence proved to her boss Dumont that the work could be done with one less person. Sandra's friend Juliette helps convince Dumont to hold another, this time secret, vote on Monday morning.

Prodded by her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), the reluctant Sandra sets out to talk to all 16 of her work colleagues over the weekend, pleading with them to consider voting to save her job. The response will be varied, sometimes unexpected, and Sandra will discover plenty about herself and her community.

Directed by the Belgian brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Two Days, One Night is an engrossing character study that expands outwards from Sandra and into her surrounding ecosystem. With a strong focus on the dynamics of a working class neighbourhood, the film asks questions about the individual and the collective, personal needs versus social good, and the surprising limits and opportunities that reside within relationships, both personal and professional.

The Dardennes establish the premise quickly, and then settle down into a pattern of Sandra approaching each co-worker in turn, pleading for their vote, and then an interlude where the most recent interaction either raises her spirits or crushes her psyche. While some repetitiveness creeps in, the film keeps each encounter fresh, Sandra never knowing what response she is going to get, her already emotionally fragile, pill-popping state ready to either shatter or regroup according to the decisions of near-strangers.

About two thirds of the way through, Sandra's quest takes on an added dimension. There is a touching scene in the car with Manu where she smiles for the first time, discovering more about herself than she wanted to know. Then a co-worker springs a surprise and takes an emotional and financial risk of her own: a new, unexpected bond of friendship is forged. Sandra's appeal for collegial sympathy will have mixed and unintended consequences, none more important than her understanding of what emotional fulfillment looks like.

Marion Cotillard own the entire film, the cameras fully fixated on her in each scene, her acting finding a magical sweet spot where extreme anxiety and delicate determination join hands, both looking to score a win over the other.

Two Days, One Night is a stark look at the simple economics of life: a bonus or a colleague, the relative value varies according to each individual, but all the ripples are nevertheless felt throughout the same small pool.

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Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Movie Review: Inferno (2016)

The third film adaptation of a Dan Brown novel, Inferno reaches a new low in the series: mechanical, plodding and lacking in both logic and intensity.

Harvard University symbologist Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes up in a Florence hospital, with evidence of a bullet having grazed his head, suffering from short term memory loss and horrific hallucinations of a hell-on-earth. Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) administers care, but soon she is helping him flee the hospital when assassin Vayentha (Ana Ularu) shows up, seemingly intent on killing Langdon. At Sienna's apartment they discover a miniature image projector in Langdon's possession depicting Sandro Botticelli's Map of Hell, a visualization of Dante's Inferno. The image has been slightly modified to contain clues.

The hidden text in the image suggests that recently deceased billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has arranged for a catastrophic virus to be unleashed on humanity to solve the overpopulation problem, and it's up to Langdon to discover the virus location and stop its release. Langdon and Sienna chase down a series of art-based clues in Florence and Venice, hotly pursued by the assassin Vayentha, World Health Organization officials Christoph Bouchard (Omar Sy) and Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen), as well as Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan), the head of a secretive private security agency.

Directed by Ron Howard, Inferno is a soulless connect-the-dots exercise. While the book was already suffering from formula fatigue, the film manages to conclusively erode any lingering interest by defaulting to the worst kind of chase movie, where every other scene has to feature dozens of police cars, helicopters and drones, but none of it creates any sort of tension or engagement. The intricate puzzles supposedly at the core of Langdon's skill set are presented and solved within about a minute each, reducing the main character to a lumbering professor huffing across a couple of European cities in a perfunctory sprint to a stock climax.

Making matters worse is a plot that ultimately defies all logic. The film changes the book's challenging final twist in favour of a really dumb Hollywood ending. This is not only a weak-kneed surrender to the worst tendencies of an industry often afraid to provoke debate, but in this case also undermines the entirety of Zobrist's carefully constructed plot.

The few flashback scenes to Zobrist ironically emerge as the most interesting thing that Inferno has to offer: a movie about the billionaire would have been much more interesting, but only in the hands of a more astute director.  As for Inferno, it's neither cerebral nor kinetic; just an irritatingly inconsequential burn-out.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Movie Review: Kinsey (2004)

A biographical drama about the scientist who revolutionized the understanding of sexuality, Kinsey treats its subject with well-rounded respect, revealing the man's determination and faults. The film is an efficient recounting of a unique career, suffering only slightly from some character repetitiveness.

At Indiana University in the 1930s, insect researcher Professor Al Kinsey develops an interest in researching human sexuality. In flashback, Kinsey's background is revealed. Born to a strict father (John Lithgow), Kinsey refuses to follow the path of engineering and chooses biology instead. He pursues an interest in the migration and evolution of gall wasps, and meets and marries Clara McMillen (Laura Linney). His early sexual experiences with his wife as well as his bisexuality contribute to his curiosity about human sexuality as a science. The current texts in circulation are religious and moralistic nonsense disguised as fact.

Kinsey recruits his students including Clyde Martin (Peter Sarsgaard), Wardell Pomeroy (Chris O'Donnell) and Paul Gebhard (Timothy Hutton) to form the core of a research team. Supported by university president Herman Wells (Oliver Platt) and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation represented by Alan Gregg (Dylan Baker), Kinsey and his researchers fan out across the country interviewing thousands. The research findings, first published in the late 1940s, shake the foundations of American society. The former insect professor becomes a celebrity and household name. But a backlash also awaits, and Kinsey's singular obsession with the pure science of sexuality takes a personal and professional toll.

Directed and written by Bill Condon, Kinsey clocks in at under two hours and wastes no time on padding. This is a disciplined, focused film, stylishly divulging the man, the mission and the consequences. Enough background is added to create context without getting lost in side quests. Condon captures the clever simplicity of Kinsey's observational and interview methods, and then the ground shift of awakening unleashed by the resultant research.

Al Kinsey is presented as a visionary, a pioneer and a flawed man, inheriting a lot of more from his intolerable father than he wishes to admit. The scenes of Kinsey's early life are interspersed throughout the film with a light touch, colouring childhood influences in subtle shades. Kinsey the adult becomes dogmatic about his science the way his father was about his brand of religion. After demonstrating a propensity for diving deeply into a narrow topic with his improbable gall wasp obsession, he locks onto sexuality as pure science, reducing human intercourse to a subject stripped of emotional, psychological or societal resonance.

Liam Neeson contributes to the film's appeal, owning the role and settling quickly to embody the scientist as beady-eyed, stubborn and sure of his stance as others recoil in shock when the covers are thrown off to reveal exactly what is going on in the national bedroom. Neeson's intensity helps to ride out the more repetitious scenes, Condon overemphasizing his main character's obtusely stubborn traits. Laura Linney excels as his wife Clara "Mac" McMillan, first astounded by her husband's liberal views of sexuality and then embracing what freedom may mean to her and her marriage. Peter Sarsgaard as Clyde Martin is the most prominent of the researchers who bring Kinsey's research methods to life both professionally and personally.

Kinsey emerges as a dispassionately cold proponent of understanding human coupling for the sake of reckless exploration and personal satisfaction, and eventually pushes too hard and too fast. For all the good that the research achieved, this is a story of the quixotic renegade shoving society two steps forward but one step very much backwards: support seeps away, damage is caused within the team, and a shocked nation reaches the point of too much information. Scientific advancement can be a messy and imperfect path.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Movie Review: The Girl On The Train (2016)

A mystery thriller delving into topics of addiction, abuse, control and mental illness, The Girl On The Train introduces an intriguing premise with plenty of style, but ultimately meanders to a stock conclusion.

Hopelessly addicted to alcohol, Rachel (Emily Blunt) rides the commuter train daily back and forth to Manhattan. On the way she passes the house of her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux), who is now married to Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Tom and Anna carried on an affair behind Rachel's back after she and Tom were unable to conceive. Two doors down and also visible from the train is the house were Megan (Haley Bennett) lives with her husband Scott (Luke Evans). Rachel does not know Megan, but from a distance the relationship between Megan and Scott appears idyllic.

What Rachel doesn't know is that Megan has had a miserable life, and is now seeing psychologist Dr. Kamal Abdic (Édgar Ramírez) to try and hold herself together while she works as a nanny for Tom and Anna. With Rachel descending ever deeper into an alcoholic stupor and apparently harassing Tom and Anna, she spots Megan cuddling with a strange man. When Megan suddenly disappears the same day that Rachel blacks out from too much alcohol, Rachel inserts herself into affairs that apparently do not concern her, and she draws the attention of Detective Riley (Alison Janney), who is investigating Megan's disappearance.

An adaptation of the Paula Hawkins novel directed by Tate Taylor, The Girl On The Train has a good set-up but a relatively limp finish. The idea of a self-doubting alcoholic observing her former life from a passing train and delving into a mystery shrouded in illicit affairs is compelling, and potentially Hitchcockian. For the first two thirds of the film Taylor does a fine job creating a fog of doubt about what is going on, with flashbacks and alternative points of view helping to heighten the interconnected complexities in the lives of Rachel, Megan and Anna. The final third surrenders meekly to the most banal of resolutions, ideas running dry and the mystery defaulting to an unconvincing antagonist and questionable motivations.

The premise is built on the differences between outside appearances and inward realities. The glow of light within a house seen from a passing train suggests cozy relationships and warm comforts. But inside the walls all manners of conflict reside, and what Rachel thinks she longs for does not really exist. In its better moments the film thrives on the differences between perceptions, memories and the historical narratives as seen from different perspectives. The damage caused by alcohol, abusive relationships, and depression spike the film with emotional possibilities.

Emily Blunt carries the weight of Rachel's failed life on her shoulders and is at the centre of the all the film's better moments. She receives limited support, with all the other characters and performances limited in scope and definition. Alison Janney suffers the most, the role of Detective Riley seemingly a poorly developed afterthought.

The Girl On The Train rides through several intriguing stops. Unfortunately the film blows a crass whistle instead of properly exploiting its own possibilities.

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Friday, 4 November 2016

Movie Review: Enough Said (2013)

A smart romantic comedy for adults, Enough Said is a prescient journey through the complications of emotional relationships during middle age.

In Los Angeles, Eva (Julia Louis Dreyfus) is a divorced masseuse, close to giving up on finding another fulfilling relationship. Her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) is about to fly the nest to go to college. Eva accompanies her married friends Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) to a party, where she meets poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) and burly television library curator Albert (James Gandolfini). Marianne becomes Eva's new client and then a good friend. Meanwhile Albert and Eva go out on a date and a romance blossoms.

Albert shares custody of his daughter Tess (Eve Hewson), who is also college bound. Albert and Eva share many other scars of middle age, and their relationship becomes serious, while Eva becomes Marianne's confidant. Meanwhile, with Ellen distancing herself from her mother in anticipation of leaving the house, Ellen's friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) surprisingly starts to spend more time with Eva. Just when Eva is adjusting to the new dynamics in her life, she is shocked to learn that Albert is Marianne's ex-husband, and Eva can't resist prodding Marianne to talk about all of Albert's faults.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said thrives on a sly streak of authenticity. A preponderance of richly drawn characters allows the film to explore multiple perspectives, creating a rich tapestry of connections grounded in reality. The movie features its fair share of coincidences and dramatic foibles to juice the comic moments. But within the context of the romantic comedy genre, Holofcener succeeds in creating a refreshingly original narrative, filled with real people muddling through life while tending to the scars created by past mistakes. The film is always funny, sometimes sorrowful, and consistently emotionally honest.

Themes of lingering pain and resentment, the awkwardness of dealing with ex-partners, and the fear that stalls a second commitment permeate through the story. The three central characters are dealing with the same post-relationship issues, but using different methods. Albert has retreated into an I-am-who-I-am mode unwilling to bend to what a woman may want to imagine him as. The excessively cultivated Marianne is not through sticking and twisting knives into her ex-husband's back, and needs a friend who listens. Eva is generally at the resigned stage, almost over her ex-husband and still willing to give romance a chance, but her emotional quest may be more about filling the void about to be created by her daughter Ellen's departure.

The multitude of characters worth caring about is startling. Holofcener works hard to surround Eva with people who ring true even in small roles. In relatively brief appearances, Eva's daughter's friend Chloe and Albert's daughter Tess emerge as intriguing young adults with enough personality and background to deserve their own films. The tension between Tess and Ellen is also tantalizing, raising questions about the roles of daughters, mothers and friends as children push through boundaries to become young adults. Meanwhile Eva's friends Sarah and Will may be the last married couple in Los Angeles, and the cracks in their union propagate outwards in real time.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus rises above her television quirkiness and succeeds in transforming her slightly- ditzy-but-trying-hard persona to the big screen. In his penultimate screen role before his untimely death, James Gandolfini combines pathos, sensitivity and burly masculine pride to create a most unusual romantic lead.

Prior entanglements can potentially torpedo future happiness opportunities. Enough Said is about the search for a delicate balance where the past is neither ignored nor allowed to dictate.

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Thursday, 3 November 2016

Movie Review: The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)

A school drama with a difference, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is an engrossing study of surreptitious manipulation in all its forms. The film moves in unexpected directions, and builds forceful momentum powered by an exceptional Maggie Smith performance.

Edinburgh, 1932. Miss Jean Brodie (Smith) is an unmarried teacher at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. Having lost the love of her life in the dying days of the Great War, Jean presents herself as a superior teacher, in her prime, dedicated to exposing "her girls" to the arts, culture, beauty and her version of the truth. The students currently falling under her influence include the beautiful Jenny (Diane Grayson), the smart Sandy (Pamela Franklin), and the tentative, stuttering Mary (Jane Carr).

Jean is involved in romantic relationships with two fellow teachers, but is unable to commit to either one. Her real love is art teacher and artist Teddy Lloyd (Robert Stephens), but he is married with many kids and is only interested in the thrill of the affair. Music teacher Gordon Lowther (Gordon Jackson) is more available, but Jean sees him as a boring second choice. Meanwhile, the school's headmistress Emmeline Mackay (Celia Johnson) is growing wary of Jean's undue influence on the girls. As the Brodie girls grow up and start to move into early adulthood, Jean's influence resonates through their young lives, while the rumblings of emerging fascism across Europe unleash disturbing tendencies in Miss Brodie.

A play adaptation directed by Ronald Neame and written for the screen by Jay Presson Allen, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie initially presents itself as a female version of 1967's To Sir, With Love. Jean Brodie appears to be a principled and inspirational teacher, rising above the doldrums of a routine curriculum to turn her students into something better. They reciprocate with deep admiration. and a self-sustaining circle of affection is built to pry apart the grey expectations of the school's administration.

But this is a film with a clever feint. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie's real intent is to explore the dangers that lurk beneath superficial female displays of nurturing, and the drama slowly, almost imperceptibly, but ever so surely, steers towards some very dark corners. What lies beneath the central character's seemingly philanthropic behaviour is a selfish streak rarely seen on the screen, and Neame expertly peels the onion layers to reveal a poisonous core. The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is actually a film about the dark art of manipulation and deception in the classroom and the bedroom as practiced by women, where lifelong battles of the mind and the heart are fought and won.

Presson Allen surrounds Jean Brodie with other women old and young who develop their own agendas, and they are no less calculating. Miss Mackay's mission in life is focused on ridding Marcia Blaine School of Miss Brodie, and what starts as a clash between old and modern transforms into an existential battle of wills between two educators using other people as weapons. And Sandy matures from girl to young woman and joins the arena where deviousness rules. Taught at the feet of Brodie, Sandy learns well and emerges as a couterpoint to her mentor in a final showdown.

There are men in the film, but while the artist Teddy Lloyd and the well-meaning Gordon Lowther sometimes get to believe that they are in control, they are at all times caught in the overlapping webs of deception woven by the women in the drama.

Maggie Smith delivers a spectacular performance, full of righteous self-aggrandization disguised as benevolence. She was rewarded with the Best Actress Academy Award. Pamela Franklin and Celia Johnson hold their own, and form the other two points of the tension triangle.

The film features two unforgettable scenes of verbal confrontation. Brodie and Mackay face off in an epic battle of words and wits that Brodie wins with no compromise, drawing a line in the sand and standing on the edge of it with magnificent impudence. Later Brodie and Sandy get their own royal battle, and this time Brodie emerges bruised, but ironically only because Sandy learned so well from her master. Jean Brodie finally understands who and what she is, and the lesson could only be delivered by one of her own, bursting into her prime.

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