By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Worth a look anyway, for the actors.
HBO’s The Last of the Blonde Bombshells is an amiable piece of fluff that likewise benefits from its cast, a remarkably august one that includes two Dames (Judi Dench and Cleo Laine) and a Sir (Ian Holm), along with Leslie Caron, Olympia Dukakis and Billie Whitelaw. If their collective dazzle does not blind one to the script‘s improbabilities, not to say impossibilities, and its cornucopia of filmic cliche, it is more or less adequate compensation for the invested time. The film concerns the reunion of a World War II--era all-girl band, spearheaded by just-widowed tenor saxophonist Dench and its formerly cross-dressing drummer, Holm, who also spar romantically, and is much concerned with the passage of time, and the things of youth and the things of age. As Dame J. concludes, “Old people are just young people who’ve been around for a long time,” a sentiment that, as an apprentice old person, I am inclined to endorse. Though if you want a real illustration of the passage of time and the things of youth and age, I suggest getting hold of a copy of Peter Hall‘s 1968 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Judi, as Titania, goes topless and Ian cavorts as Puck in a leafy diaper.
Nobody gets naked here, you may be glad to know, and apart from some inexpert musical miming, and Holm wearing a dress, none of the principals are forced to embarrass themselves too badly, as actors often are. They are, of course, musicians in their own way -- I could listen to Dench‘s throaty alto (voice, not sax) until the cows come home. And I have no cows.
Better, and more believable, is The Sandy Bottom Orchestra, “A Showtime Original Picture for All Ages,” which also coaxes a musician out of retirement -- in this instance Glenne Headly (Dick Tracy), whose youthful aspirations as a concert pianist have been sidelined by love, marriage and the baby carriage. Now the baby has grown into lovely young Madeline Zima (the little girl on The Nanny, I can hardly believe), who plays the violin and, like her mother, is alienated from the uncultured, whitebread Wisconsin small town originally imagined by Garrison Keillor and his wife Jenny Lind Nilsson in the children’s book upon which this film is based. Like Keillor‘s own monologues, the film, notwithstanding a complement of pixilated Lake Wobegon types, is slow and quiet and not a little bit melancholy. Headly and Zima move through the film with a similar sort of yearning in their eyes that makes them seem actually related. I think I am in love with them both and hope that does not make me a pervert. Tom Irwin, who was Dad on My So-Called Life, is Dad here, a jolly dairyman with a Stokowskian streak; Jane Powell, late of MGM, is around to philosophize and die. In the end, music will be made, and small-town life embraced, and a historic building saved, and if it all seems too good to be true, life itself sometimes does; and for when it doesn’t, we have TV.
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