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?
Parker Posey has signed on to play the villain in the big-screen adaptation of Saturday morning toon classic "Josie and the Pussycats." Tara Reid ("American Pie") and Alan Cumming ("Titus") are in negotiations to join the cast, as well, according to today’s Hollywood Reporter.
"She's All That" star Rachael Leigh Cook is already a lock to play Josie, the leader of the female rocker/super-sleuth group. Posey will portray a 'tyrannical egomaniacal record label CEO.' The story, written by "Can’t Hardly Wait" scribes Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan (who will also direct), has the Pussycats being manipulated by Posey to put subliminal messages in their songs and lure the nation’s youth into media slavery. And no, we’re not making this up.
WHAT ABOUT GABRIELLE? Lucy Lawless is mulling her first movie since becoming a TV star via "Xena: Warrior Princess." The film, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is "Dealing With Donna," an Australian comedy about two dysfunctional women, to be directed by Richard Turner.
ARACHNOPHOBIA: The producing team who brought you "Independence Day" and "Godzilla," then took a break from sci-fi with the forthcoming "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson, is going back to its roots. Centropolis Entertainment will produce a $30 million film called "Arach Attack," a comedy thriller about rampaging, toxic spiders.
THIS AIN’T DUMBO, FOLKS: The Reporter says Jodie Foster and Morgan Freeman will voice elephants in DreamWorks’ next animated film, "Tusker," about a herd of elephants trekking across Southeast Asia.
AVEC DU FROMAGE: Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman will star in an English-language thriller from famed French director Claude Lelouch ("A Man and A Woman"), the Reporter says. Shooting on "T For Thriller" is set for later this year in New York, Paris, Britain and Italy.
WOODY GOES WEST: In case anyone’s still paying attention, East Coast denizen Woody Allen has inked a three-film deal with West Coast-based DreamWorks. Allen's next flick is "Small Time Crooks," due out May 19.