Greetings again from the darkness. When it comes to death, everyone hopes to go out on their own terms. Perhaps that’s at an advanced age surrounded by family. Or maybe it’s before the loss of physical or mental capacities. And then there are those who just want to pass quietly while sleeping. Whatever terms one might envision, the odds are we will have little say in when, where, or how. Co-directors Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon previously collaborated on THE FAREWELL PARTY (2014), and here they are working on Rona Tamir’s adaptation of the stage play by Anat Gov.
Andie MacDowell stars as Julia Roth, a once famous actress who is attempting to receive medical treatment while remaining incognito. Arriving for her first chemotherapy session, she admits to not having told friends, family, or even her loyal assistant Nancy (Tamsen Grieg). The three women currently receiving chemo all recognize Julia, but it becomes clear that no one being treated for cancer cares much about spotting a celebrity. It’s interesting to watch as Julia is brought down a notch or two from her arrogance as she realizes two things: these folks aren’t impressed, and her own cancer is much more advanced than she originally thought.
This little chemo support group provides the heart of the film. Screen veteran Miriam Margolyes plays Judy, a retired teacher and lifelong single. Sally Phillips plays Mikey, a former rocker and the most optimistic of the group. Rakhee Thakrar plays Imaan, a young Muslim mother hoping to be cured so she can watch her kids grow up. They are all being treated by Tom Cullen, who they’ve nicknamed, “Dr Handsome”. Julia’s motivation is the upcoming wedding of her daughter, and the mood shifts quickly when Nancy shows up to “take care of this” for her boss.
There are times in life when we must be open to the help and guidance of others. Julia is a bit slow on the uptake, but soon enough, figures out that listening to those who have been going through what she’s about to go through provides the insight she needs to make up her own mind … finding a way of doing things on her own terms. Given the subject matter, the film from Granit and Maymon offers a good dose of humor, and it’s also effective in reminding us that taking a “vision trip” can be the holiday that leads to clarity and making decisions that work best for ourselves.
Greetings again from the darkness. For those high school Literature teachers struggling to get their students to embrace the classics from writers like Jane Austen, this movie won’t help much. However, chances are good that those same students will enjoy this blending of 19th century British class warfare with “The Walking Dead” – likely one of their favorite shows. The zombie apocalypse has landed in the middle of Austen’s prim and proper story, including the repressed attraction between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.
Anyone expecting the serious undertones of Ms. Austen’s1813 novel will be disappointed … but the title should have provided a pretty solid hint. While her characters and general story line act as a structure here, it’s really based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s YA hit novel … delivering zombie battles and often zany humor. Burr Steers (Igby Goes Down) directs his own adapted screenplay and seems to really be having a great time – right along with his talented cast. The sets, costumes, dialogue and fight scenes work together to create an unusual movie experience that will generate plenty of laughs while not dwelling on the zombies or violence (it is PG-13). Expect most critics to destroy this one because it’s made simply for fun, not for art.
Of course, any Pride and Prejudice spin-off (even one with zombies) must pay particular attention to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. It turns out that Elizabeth and her four sisters are highly trained warriors raised to survive against the undead. It’s even clearer for Mr. Darcy as he is billed as a zombie hunter and protector of Mr. Bingley, the rich bachelor hooked on Jane Bennett. Things get muddled by the devious Mr. Wickham, a focused Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and especially the flamboyant fop Parson Collins. The interactions between these characters bounce between loyalty, romantic attraction, emotional turmoil and hand-to-hand combat … with enough comedic elements that most viewers will find plenty of opportunities to laugh.
The talented cast is all in. They play it mostly straight (with one major exception) to achieve the balance between somber and silly. Lily James (“Downton Abbey”) and Sam Riley (On the Road, 2012) are both fun to watch as Elizabeth and Darcy. They are the film’s best fighters … both with swords and words. Bella Heathcoate (Dark Shadows, 2012) is “the pretty one” Jane, who is wooed by Douglas Booth (Noah, 2014) as Mr. Bingley. Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) makes an impression in her limited screen time as an eye-patched Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and Jack Huston (“Boardwalk Empire”) is well cast as Wickham. Screen veterans Charles Dance and Sally Phillips take on the role of parents to the five Bennett daughters, but it’s Matt Smith (“Dr Who”), who turns the film on its ear with his unconventional twist on the oddball Parson Collins, who pretty much steals each of his scenes. He had those in the theatre laughing out loud more than a few times.
Pity is the word that comes to mind for any young man who takes these Bennett girls to the prom … or more likely to one of the societal balls. The weapons hidden under their formal gowns offer fair warning to zombies and handsy suitors alike. It’s this element of strong women (physically and emotionally) that might even allow Ms. Austen to appreciate what’s happened to her characters … were she alive to see it.
Even though the film offers plenty of fun with laughs and action and romance, let’s hope it doesn’t kick off a new zombie-adaptation trend. Here are a few titles that we hope never see the big screen: Sense and Sensibilities and Zombies, War and Peace and Zombies, Crime and Punishment and Zombies, The Old Zombie and the Sea, Wuthering Zombies, Romeo and Juliet and Zombies, and Alice’s Adventure in Zombieland.