At this time of year, I find myself watching more movies than during the rest. Mostly this is due to the fact that the holidays are approaching with horrifying rapidity and I have miles to crochet before I sleep. While crocheting, I like to keep a movie going for company. I won’t pick something I’ve never seen before as I’ll get wrapped up in the plot line and forget to crochet. So, of late, I’ve put on what I would call the thoroughbreds from my stable of comfort films.
Now, considering that I’m crocheting for Christmas, you’d think I would be playing Christmas movies, but I’m under strict instructions from the husband not to commence with any Yuletide cinema fun until he returns home. Since that’s in only a few days, I’m more than happy to make that concession. So, I’ve broken out a few of my favorite as I wield my hook through loops and loops (and loops and loops) of yarn,; it’s like visiting with old friends.
This 2002 film production of Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel of the same name is definitely one of my all time favorite movies. It was the first film my husband and I went to go see when we were dating (obviously earning a tender place in my heart because of that fact alone). It has all the elements I could hope for - love, betrayal, mystery, suspense, reconciliation, redemption. (Oh, and Jim Caviezel.)
Beginning on the Isle of Elba, where Napoleon has been exiled, we meet Edmond Dantes and his best friend, Fernand Mondego. Mondego comes from an affluent, wealthy family, although he’s the second son with very little hope of gaining the familial fortune. Dantes is the son of a merchant, who possesses a Pollyanna aspect that allows him to find true happiness wherever he is. Mondego is jealous of Dantes’ contentment. These two have come ashore Elba in search of help for the captain of their ship who has fallen into a coma. The deposed dictator takes Dantes aside and entrusts him with a letter to a friend in Marseilles. Illiterate and naive, Dantes agrees to carry it. Back in Marsailles, Dantes’ intrepid action to help his captain earn him a promotion to captain. Gleefully, he runs off to tell his fiancée, Mercedes, that he can marry her now. Of course, this is another coal to heap upon Mondego’s head, as he lusts after Mercedes. In his bitterness, he betrays Dantes to the city’s magistrate. Dantes is arrested, and sent to the Chateau d’If. Locked in solitary, Dantes feeds on vengeance. By chance, he encounters Abbé Faria, a fellow prisoner, played by Richard Harris; the priest educates Dantes, and, in the course of their eleven years of imprisonment, confides in him about the location of a massive, incalculable treasure. As luck would have it, Dantes is afforded an unlikely get out of jail free card, and once he’s attained his freedom and found the treasure, he embarks on his plan for revenge. But, nothing ever really goes the way one thinks it will. I would tell you more, but I refuse to give anything away. It’s too good. Just go and watch it yourself, if you haven’t already.
As this post proves, I have a deep appreciation for all things Oscar Wilde. I have read all his plays and I have watched most of their interpretations rendered to the screen. By far, Oliver Parker’s 1999 An Ideal Husband is my favorite. Parker also helmed 2002’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Both films star Rupert Everett. (I believe that man was born to play Wilde. He’s incomparable.) The wit, humor, absurdity, and tenderness that Oscar wrote into this play come alive in this film with never a dull moment. Cate Blanchett does an excellent job of the pinnacle of virtue, Lady Gertrude Chiltern. Jeremy Northam plays her husband, Lord Robert Chiltern, who has risen in the political world because of his unflinching ethics and high moral rectitude. However, there’s a problem. In his salad days, when money was an object, Chiltern made a compromising decision, and now, at the apex of his political rise, he’s being blackmailed by the mischievous Mrs. Cheveley. Not only does this woman possess incriminating evidence of Chiltern’s less than legal wrangling in his youth, she also happens to be Lady Chiltern’s arch nemesis from their girlhood days. Enter Lord Goring (played by Rupert Everett). He’s a layabout lout, a lazy playboy with a reputation for idleness and mild dissipation. He also happens to be a particular friend of the Chilterns. Robert confides in Lord Goring of his dilemma, and Goring advises him to apprise his wife of everything, as she will invariably find out on her own and then he’ll really be in the soup. Goring expresses his sagacious advice with such ennui and dismissiveness in his manner, that one could almost overlook the wisdom. After all, the man himself has declared, “I love talking about nothing, Father. It's the only thing I know anything about.” Yet, throughout the course of the play, he finds himself in the hilarious predicament of being the ONLY one who knows anything, and with that knowledge, he possesses a keen understanding of mercy and grace. Such themes and this eloquent expression of them puts An Ideal Husband at the top of my list of comfort films.
Every so often, a movie comes along and you find yourself asking, was this film made specifically for me? Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is that film for me. Guinevere Pettigrew is a prim and proper governess who has fallen on hard time. She’s in desperate need of employment, but her employment agency has had enough of the complaints their clients have catalogued against her. So, in a fit of insanity, she grasps at a business card for Delysia LaFosse’s residence, ferrets it away in her pocket, and embarks on her grandest adventure. In the course of 24 hours, Guinevere LIVES. Truly. Yet, she’s so self-possessed, that in even in the most haywire situations, she retains herself. I appreciate that. One part in particular, amidst the glitter and pizzazz of a hoping nightclub, when one’s head could be turned by wealth and the je nais se qua of the Upper Crust (as Delysia has), Guinevere tells Delysia about life- “And that is why you must not waste a second of this precious life. Listen to me. Once I too had ambitions. Not your grand ones, simple ambitions. Marriage, children and a house of our own. He died, in the mud in France. A good, solid man. You would call him dull, no doubt, but he smiled whenever he saw me and we could've built a life on that. Your heart knows the truth, Delysia. Trust it.” Isn’t that just beautiful?
Frances McDormand is a tour de force; she truly owns the character. Amy Adams- another of my favorites- does an exceptional job of conveying the tension between pursuing one’s dream and following one’s heart in Delysia LaFosse. Then, of course, there’s Ciarán Hinds; he’s dashing and thoroughly irresistible. So’s Lee Pace, the passionate piano player. Even Mark Strong is enjoyable, if a bit nefarious. If you haven’t seen this gem- set in the glitz and glam of 1930s London (complete with svelte fashion figures and art deco interiors)- do yourself a favor, and watch it. It’s one to make you smile. (I also highly recommend the soundtrack. It’s fantastic.)
And, since we began with one Napoleon, I believe it’s only fitting that we end with another. In this case, it’s Napoleon Solo, who is a vast deal different from Napoleon Bonaparte- although, they both seem to have a great appreciation for artwork. (Bonaparte was so taken with the Mona Lisa, he insisted on hanging her in his bedroom, a thing which caused a great deal of strife between Josephine and the emperor, leading to its eventual removal from his chamber. Napoleon Solo, on the other hand, would be the one to enlist should you wish to pilfer the portrait. Art appreciation can take on many forms.)
Guy Ritchie’s homage to the 1960s TV spy thriller is everything I adore about a movie. It is honed with spectacular precisions. Every single actor on screen delivers an exceptional performance. The music is spectacular (I own the soundtrack and put it on heavy rotation). The fashion is the sort of sophisticated fun that fashion seems to lack all too often today (I adored it so much, and remarked upon it so much, my husband spent painstaking hours researching out the fashion houses that designed the sunglasses Gaby wears so that he could buy them for my birthday and Christmas respectively). Every aspect is handled with the same meticulousness that is put into the fine tuning of a racecar engine. And boy, oh boy, does this baby have power.
While this film could easily be overlooked as not possessing a deep heart- what with its witty repartee, humorous double entendres, and reams and reams of slick fun- I beg to differ. After all, the central plot revolves around three spies- a Russian, an America, and a German from behind the Iron Curtain- who work together, while the world is on the brink of chaos and peace seems like a far off cry. These three disparate people come together and form a unit that works to solve seemingly unsolvable issues that- oddly enough- save the world. When nations threaten cold war and nuclear fallout, these three make the world smaller, and by doing so, they form an unlikely alliance- one in which they care about one another. I know I’m nodding to Man of Steel again (see post here), but it seems mildly appropriate as Henry Cavill is in both films. He’s another favorite of mine.
What is a comfort movie (or movies) that you put on when you just want to relax and have company with an old friend?