February 13, 2002 10:10am EST
This film is based on Elegy for Iris literary critic John Bayley's biography of his late wife the brilliant writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch. Iris is unconventional in the sense that it does not adhere to a structured plot or story line but instead focuses on their relationship by flashing back and forth between the present and 40 years ago when the two first met. In the sequences taking place in the past Kate Winslet plays a young confident Murdoch in her formative years a woman revered by men and openly bisexual. Hugh Bonneville plays the young and apprehensive Bayley hopelessly pursuing her. The present however reveals a drastic role reversal for the couple: We see Murdoch in her 70s as played by Judi Dench and witness her descent into Alzheimer's disease and the toll it takes on her husband played by Jim Broadbent. The once-subservient husband has been thrust into a caretaker position and painfully tries to cope with his beloved wife's illness and loss of sanity.
Dench deservedly received a best actress Oscar nomination for the fabulous job she does as the older Murdoch. She is convincing as a brilliant thinker and even more believable as her condition worsens--check out the heartbreaking scene when Bayley locks himself in the study to get away from her irrational behavior and she scratches the windowpane on the glass door like a cat while looking at her husband with utter helplessness. Dench conveys her character's vulnerability in a single glance. As an older Bayley Broadbent is as impressive as Dench especially as he struggles to be assertive yet avoid being too harsh. Bonneville as a young Bayley could almost be Broadbent's clone. At first glance he looks like the same actor made to look older through some sort of makeup or special effects wizardry. Bonneville skillfully hatches the young Bayley's traits and tics later perfected by Broadbent. Winslet also Oscar-nominated for Iris (in the supporting actress category) well plays Murdoch's early audacity and boldness.
Director Richard Eyre does a beautiful and seamless job flowing from the past to the present throughout the film. Although the film barely delves into Murdoch's work the importance of her writing is established with scenes from a BBC interview or a luncheon given in her honor. Eyre also does an exceptional job conveying Bayley's hopeless predicament: he fusses over Murdoch like an overprotective parent intermittently lashing out at her only to apologize sobbing afterward for having done so. It's sweet and pitiful especially since Bayley believes that the Iris he fell in love with is still in there somewhere. But while the film is visually exquisite and convincing the subject matter is not necessarily entertaining. We know Murdoch will eventually succumb to her illness but it's even more dreadful to have to watch every agonizing step. By the time Murdoch was reduced to playing in the dirt and watching Teletubbies I found myself wondering When is she going to die already?
Moviegoers aren't bored of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring yet. They spent another $16.2 million on Rings tickets, many of them for repeat viewings, keeping it in first place for a fourth consecutive weekend.
Also driving the box office were good expansions for A Beautiful Mind and The Royal Tenenbaums, a tasty Orange County opening and solid holdover business for Ocean's Eleven.
Key films -- those grossing at least $500,000 -- took in about $103.5 million, a solid total for the second weekend of the New Year. Comparisons to last year aren't valid since the comparable 2001 weekend was the four-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, which fell a week earlier than it does this year.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated epic The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring held on to first place for a fourth consecutive week with a still impressive ESTIMATED $16.15 million (-30%) at 3,381 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,777 per theater). Its cume is approximately $228.3 million, heading for $300 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peter Jackson, Rings' ensemble cast is led by Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen.
Noting that Rings is heading for $300 million domestically, New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning, "It could do more. I think the (Academy) Awards are going to determine where this finally settles itself in. A lot of nominations will help and if we win anything it'll help. I think that will determine where this picture ultimately shows up. The Globes are going to help us, also. The Globes will give us a bump, if it happens."
Focusing on the film's performance abroad, Tuckerman pointed out, "This weekend we crossed over $500 million internationally all together. And we haven't opened Japan yet, which is going to be a huge market for us. The mysticism of this picture and the Japanese (are a perfect fit). Japan opens in a couple of weeks."
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind went wider in its fourth week, holding on to second place with a solid ESTIMATED $15.81 million (-5%) at 2,222 theaters (+369 theaters; $7,115 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.0 million, heading for $100 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
Mind was honored Friday night as the best film of the year by the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Howard tied for best director with Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann. Crowe was named best actor and Connelly was voted best supporting actress. In other key awards, the group named Sissy Spacek best actress for In the Bedroom and Ben Kingsley best supporting actor for Sexy Beast. Lord of the Rings won best composer (Howard Shore) and shared best song honors (Enya) with Vanilla Sky (Paul McCartney).
Mind's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in over 1,000 theaters this weekend.
"The studio continues to feel really optimistic about the film's performance," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "We're coming into the awards season, which began Friday night with the Broadcast Film Critics, and it's evident that Beautiful Mind continues to be the darling."
Mind is nominated for six Golden Globes, including best picture, actor, director, supporting actress, screenplay (Akiva Goldsman) and original score (James Horner). It is on most Hollywood handicappers' short lists as a likely major contender for prime Oscar nominations, including best picture.
Paramount and MTV Films' opening of the PG-13 rated youth appeal comedy Orange County finished third with a healthy ESTIMATED $15.1 million at 2,317 theaters ($6,527 per theater).
Directed by Jake Kasdan, it stars Colin Hanks and Jack Black.
"We're happy with it," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "This is on the high end of where we expected it to be."
Asked what he thought made the film work so well, Lewellen replied, "One was obviously the (marketing) campaign on the picture. I think the support from MTV and the fact that it was the only new picture coming into the marketplace was a big help, too."
Looking at the overall marketplace, Lewellen noted, "Everything that was in the market also help up well. I think it says that when these pictures have a little room to breathe, not only the new openings but the product that's in the marketplace can hold up very well."
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated casino heist dramatic comedy Ocean's Eleven fell one rung to fourth place in its fifth week, still holding strongly with an ESTIMATED $7.54 million (-32%) at 2,670 theaters (-100 theaters; $2,822 per theater). Its cume is approximately $162.5 million, heading for $180-200 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Ocean's extensive cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
"We're thrilled with its success," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "This movie has incredible legs and the audience has just continued to support it. It's very strong especially on
Saturdays and Sundays."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R rated drama The Royal Tenenbaums expanded again in its fifth week, holding on to fifth place with a still encouraging ESTIMATED $6.37 million (-25%) at 905 theaters (+154 theaters; $7,042 per theater). Its cume is approximately $29.9 million.
Directed by Wes Anderson, it stars Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson.
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' G rated animated feature Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius fell two slots to sixth place in its fourth week with a slower ESTIMATED $5.5 million (-39%) at 2,810 theaters (-341 theaters; $1,957 per theater). Its cume is approximately $69.0 million, heading for about $85 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by John A. Davis, it was produced by Steve Oedekerk, Davis and Albie Hecht.
Paramount's R rated romantic thriller Vanilla Sky, which was sixth a week earlier, tied for seventh place in its fifth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $5.0 million (-30%) at 2,770 theaters (-72 theaters; $1,805 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.4 million, heading for about $105 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, it stars Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz, Kurt Russell, Jason Lee, Noah Taylor and Cameron Diaz.
Miramax's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Kate & Leopold, which was eighth a week earlier, tied for seventh place in its third week with an engaging ESTIMATED $5.0 million (-20%) at 2,467 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,026 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.4 million.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman.
USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, a likely Oscar contender, went wider in its third week, placing ninth with a jolly good ESTIMATED $3.79 million at 518 theaters (+387 theaters; $7,307 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.7 million.
Directed by Robert Altman and starring an extensive ensemble cast, it was written by Julian Fellowes and produced by Altman, Bob Balaban and David Levy.
"The business yesterday was outrageous," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "It's just so good. It's breaking out!"
Looking ahead, Foley said, the film should "finish the week with probably another $1.4 million (bringing it to) about $8.1 million and go into next weekend with an additional 100-plus theaters. I'm already sitting on 100 more runs right now for next week. And being that it is the holiday weekend, I'll get up as high as I can. If I can get (up to) 800, I'd do that because I want to exploit the Golden Globes, the holiday weekend and moving out of the Golden Globes into the (next weekend) with as much broadening as I can.
"I know I can be aggressive now because the film has demonstrated its accessibility in the marketplace. It demonstrated it in Nashville, where yesterday we did about $5,000 (and in) Tallahassee with $3,000 and Baton Rouge with $3,000. The suburbs and the small regional markets are all cranking. So I feel confident that we can go up to the next level."
If all goes well, Foley explained, by Jan. 24 "this $6.7 million that's going to turn into $8.1 million (by Jan. 18) is going to be over $13 million. It will be the biggest grossing Altman film in recent history because we'll surpass Dr. T and the Women at that point. Dr. T did about $12.2 million. Obviously, with the momentum the film is carrying right now, we've got a long way to go. It's very exciting because at this stage of the game it's going to take out The Player, too, which was about $21 million."
Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros.' mega-blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, down one rung in its ninth week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.4 million (-44%) at 2,170 theaters (-511 theaters; $1,567 per theater). Its cume is approximately $305.0 million, heading for $320 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Columbus, Harry stars Daniel Radcliffe in its title role.
This weekend also saw Universal's R rated fantasy thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf arrive to a biting ESTIMATED $0.47 million at 21 theaters
($22,523 per theater).
Directed by Christopher Gans, it stars Samuel Le Bihan.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Columbia Pictures and Initial Entertainment Group's R rated drama Ali added theaters in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.2 million (-54%) at 2,521 theaters (+75 theaters; $1,259 per theater). Its cume is approximately $54.4 million, heading for $65 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Michael Mann, it stars Will Smith.
Miramax's R rated Oscar contender drama In the Bedroom widened in its eighth week with a still attractive ESTIMATED $3.1 million at 424 theaters (+217 theaters; $7,350 per theater. Its cume is approximately $8.1 million.
Directed by Todd Field, it stars Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl and Marisa Tomei.
Miramax's R rated drama The Shipping News went wider in its third week with a choppy ESTIMATED $1.25 million at 266 theaters (+53 theaters; $4,700 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.0 million.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it stars Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett.
Miramax Zoe Films' R rated French comedy Amelie expanded in its eleventh week with an encouraging ESTIMATED $1.1 million at 260 theaters (+33 theaters; $4,230 per theater. Its cume is approximately $19.3 million.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.
Revolution Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R rated drama Black Hawk Down continued to fly high in its third week of platform release via Columbia Pictures with an ESTIMATED $0.73 million at 16 theaters (+12 theaters; $45,313 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Josh Hartnett.
"We are on 16 screens exclusively in New York and Los Angeles -- four in New York and 12 in Los Angeles," Sony Pictures Entertainment spokesman Steve Elzer said Sunday morning. "The business since we opened has been nearly at capacity. That will go on 3,000 screens (starting Friday, Jan. 18). The tracking on it is really phenomenal. It's been building since Day One. You really couldn't hope for a better strategy to be in place to knock this thing out of the park. It's finding its audience and I think next weekend it will be the story."
Warner Bros.' PG-13 World War II drama Charlotte Gray expanded quietly in its third week with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 52 theaters (+47 theaters; $3,423 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Gillian Armstrong, it stars Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup and Michael Gambon.
Universal's R rated drama Mulholland Drive expanded in its 14th week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 96 theaters (+19 theaters; $1,630 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.0 million.
Written and directed by David Lynch, it stars Justin Theroux and Naomi Watts.
USA Films' R rated black-and-white drama The Man Who Wasn't There went wider in its eleventh week with a slow ESTIMATED $0.1 million at 132 theaters (+40 theaters; $765 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.1 million.
Directed by Joel Coen and written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, it stars Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand.
United Artists' R rated Bosnian war drama No Man's Land, an MGM release, went wider in its sixth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.035 million at 17 theaters (+4 theaters; $2,070 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.35 million.
Written and directed by Danis Tanovic, it won the best screenplay award in Cannes last May and was a hit at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Land is Bosnia's first official Oscar entry.
Universal's international division reported that it enjoyed strong for American Pie 2 in both Argentina and Mexico.
Pie 2 finished first in Argentina with a three day gross of $0.3 million on 56 screens, representing a market share of about 25 percent. Pie 2 was 40 percent bigger than the second ranking film Jeepers Creepers and was 32 percent bigger than the original American Pie was in Argentina. The studio noted that the picture's strong performance came during a period of economic and political upheaval in the country.
Pie 2 also opened in first place in Mexico with a hot two-day gross of $.82 million on 250 screens, representing about 25 percent of the marketplace. It was 38 percent bigger than the number two film Spy Game (released in Mexico by Nuvision) and was a whopping 245 percent bigger than the first American Pie. The sequel's two-day gross was 23 percent bigger than the entire first week for American Pie.
In Brazil Pie 2 continued to hold strong in its third week, placing fifth. Its cume after 23 days in Brazil is $2.6 million.
Pie 2's international cume to date is $131 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $103.53 million. Comparisons with last year are not valid because the comparable weekend last year was the four-day Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday weekend. This weekend's key film gross was down about 13.41 percent from $119.57 million for the previous weekend.
Last year, Paramount's opening week of Save the Last Dance was first with $27.53 million at 2,230 theaters ($12,344 per theater); and Fox's fourth week of Cast Away was second with $19.78 million at 3,048 theaters ($6,489 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $47.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $32.0 million.