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?
Actor Eddie Murphy ("The Nutty Professor") is a new dad -- again.
The 38-year-old comic and wife Nicole Murphy welcomed their fourth child, a baby girl, on Christmas Eve at a Los Angeles hospital. The newly dubbed Zola Ivy weighed in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Mother and Murphy spawn are said to be doing fine.
"We are ecstatic and very happy about the fourth addition to our family, baby Zola Ivy,'' the couple said in the statement.
Murphy's other children are Bria, 10, Myles, 7, and Shayne, 5.
20TH CENTURY FOX: Audrey Hepburn may be a fashion icon, a beloved humanitarian and the enduring star of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but she's no Elizabeth Hurley. Go figure.
The 34-year-old spokesmodel/actress was named "Babe of the Century" over the late Hepburn, per an Internet poll conducted by IGN.com.
"Both women are alluring in their own way," the panting announcement on IGN read. "Both are European (Hurley is British, and Hepburn hailed from Belgium), and both are drop-dead gorgeous. Even King Solomon could not have easily made this decision."
But IGN's cyberreaders did their best, picking Hurley as their lead babe following an intensive, 63-round elimination battle. Hurley's screen credits include "EDtv" and the two "Austin Powers" movies.
SECOND CHANCES: Actress Halle Berry ("Introducing Dorothy Dandridge") is engaged to R&B singer Eric Benet ("Day in the Life"), her publicist has confirmed.
Berry, 31, previously was married to baseball slugger David Justice. Their three-year union dissolved in 1996 amid rumors of abuse. The divorce was finalized in 1997.
Berry and Benet met two years ago backstage at a Los Angeles venue where he performed. No word on a wedding date. Berry/a> will next be seen on screen as Storm, one of the mutant superheroes of "X-Men."
UNCOUPLED? The British press is frothing at the collective (and figurative) mouth with word that A-list lovebirds Michael Douglas ("A Perfect Murder") and Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Entrapment") are on the outs.
According to Britain's Daily Star, Zeta-Jones spent Christmas at her London home -- alone. The tabloid wrangled a quote from Zeta-Jones' grandmother, who reports, "They [the actress and her mother] are doing a lot of talking. I don't know what has gone wrong."
In the unusual role as the voice of reason, the New York Post says that there's nothing to read into the couple's (separate) Christmas accommodations.
"She was getting a little bit teary as Christmas approached, and Michael encouraged her to just hop on a plane and go home for the holidays," a source tells the Post's Neal Travis.
Today a publicist for Douglas officially denied the two had split up.
Zeta-Jones, 31, and Douglas, really old (55), have been a hot-and-heavy item for much of this year. Speculation that the two were to be engaged ran high as they celebrated their joint birthdays (Sept. 25). But the occasion came and went without a wedding formally in the offing.
ZAPPED: An apparent rift between DreamWorks and the nation's largest theater chain is keeping the new Tim Allen comedy, "Galaxy Quest," off at least 4,400 potential screens.
The Tennessee-based Regal Cinemas confirms to today's Hollywood Reporter that it is not playing the film, a spoof on the "Star Trek" world, at its 431 venues in 32 states. While a Regal spokesman declined to go into specifics over the lockout, the trade paper says it appears that the company didn't like the financial terms DreamWorks was demanding. Regal was "concerned about the box-office prospects" of the film, the Reporter says.
The reputed concern may be well placed. "Galaxy Quest," co-starring Sigourney Weaver, opened on Christmas Day to good reviews but underwhelming business. It bowed in eighth place with an estimated $8.1 million in ticket sales.
SLAM-DUNK: A slate of 10 features has been set for the SlamDunk 2000 Film Festival, yet another Sundance alternative to be held in the shadow of Robert Redford's starry movie extravaganza, Jan. 25-30 in Park City, Utah.
SlamDunk, not to be confused with Slamdance or the now-defunct Slumdance, is in its third year of coattail riding. For more information on the festival, check out the official Web site at: www.slamdunk.cc/flashindex.htm.
“Traffic” and “Nurse Betty” were the top winners at the 5th Annual Golden Satellite Awards on Sunday night.
“Traffic” picked up a best drama award and another for its director, Steven Soderbergh.
“Nurse Betty” took home the best comedy award and a best actress prize for its star, Renee Zellweger, Daily Variety reports.
Held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., the awards show is organized by the International Press Academy, a splinter group of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the group that puts on the Golden Globes).
The IPA also awarded “Chicken Run” the animated feature prize and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” the foreign film award. Leading dramatic acting honors went to Geoffrey Rush for “Quills” and Ellen Burstyn for “Requiem for a Dream.”
Bruce Greenwood took the actor in a supporting role for “Thirteen Days,” while Jennifer Ehle and Rosemary Harris split the same award in the female category for their work in “Sunshine.” Michael Douglas took the best actor award in a comedy for “Wonder Boys,” Kate Hudson took the supporting actress prize for “Almost Famous” and the supporting actor nod went to Willem Dafoe for “Shadow of the Vampire.”
In the television categories, NBC’s “The West Wing” won the best TV series award and its co-star Allison Janney took the best actress prize. Tim Daly got the best actor in a drama award for “The Fugitive,” while “Sex and the City” won for best TV comedy. Frankie Muniz of “Malcolm in the Middle” and Lisa Kudrow of “Friends” took the best actor and actress in a comedy, respectively.
IN OTHER AWARDS NEWS: Oscar producer Gil Cates announced today that Roy Christopher will serve as production designer of the 73rd Annual Academy Awards on March 25. This will be Christopher's 13th post as production designer of the Oscars telecast.
Actresses Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon and Sigourney Weaver have been added as presenters at the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
Will Will Truman get lucky? Will Chandler and Monica tie the knot? Will Dawson and Pacey make up? And what's up with "Popular"?!
Those are some of the questions that have been posed and that will be answered during the fall season of television.
Herein is a critique of the fall seasons of 10 TV series that Hollywood.com staffers watch on a weekly basis:
"Will & Grace," NBC, Thursdays, 9 p.m. ET
Is "Will & Grace," the as-of-late-sometimes-hilarious sitcom about a gay man named Will Truman (Eric McCormack, who looks tan and really sexy this season), his best gay friend Jack McFarland (the always funny, over the top Emmy winner Sean Hayes), his best female friend Grace Adler (Debra Messing), and her lush of a socialite "employee" Karen Walker (Emmy winner Megan Mullally), falling from, er, grace this season? "Will & Grace" sadly has been spotty since its Emmy win for Best Comedy. McCormack has said that Will will date this season and have a number of boyfriends. The guest spot a few weeks back by Patrick Dempsey as one of those alleged future boyfriends was funny, and the exchange among Dempsey, McCormack and Hayes in Banana Republic (dancer-actor-singer-choreographer Jack is now a Banana Republic sales associate, headphones and all) was witty and pretty and ... well, you know. But last week's much-hyped guest spot by Cher was totally disappointing. The writing was weak for most of the episode, guest star Camryn Manheim was wasted and Cher appeared in only the last few minutes. What we needed was a half hour of "Jack & Cher." Here's hoping that Will hooks up with Mr. Banana Republic. Life is about the Banana, after all. Go, girlfriend. Grade: B-
"Friends," NBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET
Some shows grind to a halt after two characters get together, but the pairing of Monica (Courteney Cox Arquette) and Chandler (Matthew Perry), who are set to wed this season, has created more hijinks than ever. They have created the funniest storylines of the season: Monica consults an elaborate wedding binder she's been keeping since 4th grade, only to find out that her parents spent her wedding fund on a beach house. Chandler keeps having embarrassing moments with his future father-in-law (Elliott Gould) and finds that he can't smile in photographs. Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) and Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) compete for maid of honor (Phoebe wins, but lets Rachel do it because it means more to her). Meanwhile, the non-wedding-related storylines have fallen to the wayside: Rachel has hired a cute younger assistant she can't date; Joey's pilot gets canceled, and Phoebe just found out that her grandmother's secret cookie recipe is from Nestle Tollhouse. Ross (David Schwimmer), other than a memory-lane kiss with Rachel, is so far unlucky in love. But, in the funniest episode of the season, he finds an unlikely snuggling partner in Joey when the two accidentally nap together -- and like it. Grade: B+
"The West Wing," NBC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET
This Emmy winner started its second season with a bang -- quite literally. After the cliffhanger from the end of the first season, wherein President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) were shot, the two-hour opener took viewers from the present to the past. The episode cleverly gave the audience the background of why Bartlet first got on the campaign trail and showed how his extraordinary staff was assembled, all while juxtaposed with the assassination crisis. And the show doesn't seem to be stopping, creating scenarios that mirror the current social and political climate -- including some controversial racial conflict. The cast is still outstanding -- including Emmy winners Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg and Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler. Guest spots by the likes of Timothy Busfield and John Laroquette added heart and intensity to the behind-the-scenes storylines. But the heart of the show remains Sheen as the wise and truthful President Bartlet, and given the current real-life situation in the political world, Bartlet would be considered a godsend. Grade: A
"Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET
Though "Everybody Loves Raymond" does not tend to build upon storylines episode to episode, it has shown some resourcefulness this season. Bringing in guest stars such as Robert Culp as Debra Barone's (Emmy winner Patricia Heaton) dad was a nice touch, especially when it led to a hilarious dispute between in-laws. But the show has been quite hit-or-miss lately. Ray (Ray Romano) developing a fear of germs, for example -- interesting but not funny, especially for a character who already has three young children. Just a breakdown of logic there. Ray's brother Robert, the divorced cop (played with deadpan precision by Brad Garrett), has also been curiously underused thus far. Grade: B-
"ER," NBC, Thursdays, 10 p.m. ET
The best thing America's top drama -- for the past six seasons -- has done so far is not add any new characters. Drs. Greene and Corday (Anthony Edwards and Alex Kingston) have gotten engaged; Dr. Kovac (the very hunky Goran Visjnic) is feeling guilt over a guy he accidentally killed during a mugging; and Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) is back from rehab and peeing in a cup whenever he's asked. Dr. Chen (Ming-Na) is pregnant by a doctor at another hospital; Dr. Benton (Eriq LaSalle) lost his surgical attending position and is now "demoted" to an ER post; and there are hints that Dr. Weaver (Laura Innes) is mulling a lesbian relationship. Oh yes, and they treat people, too. The strongest episodes are still the medical-oriented cases, especially the 22-week-old "miracle baby" who survived nearly an entire day. Medical student/nurse Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney) is emerging as the emotional core, letting us miss Sherry Stringfield and Julianna Margulies a little less. What's left to do is to use more of Michael Michele, who plays pediatric resident Dr. Cleo Finch. "ER" is not consistently great, but it still keeps our pulses pounding. Grade: B
"Dawson's Creek," WB, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET
Last year ended with Joey (Katie Holmes) sailing into the sunset with Pacey (Joshua Jackson), leaving her best friend/soul mate Dawson (James Van Der Beek) weeping and alone. It's a good choice because Holmes and Jackson have decidedly better chemistry, and although they dispense the same amount of SAT-filled sentences (meanwhile Pacey is flunking school) as Joey and Dawson, this new couple have snappier arguments/flirtations. This season: Joey's repairing her friendship with Dawson, who's trying to move on by taking pictures and finding a new confidante in Pacey's older sister (Sasha Alexander), particularly after his parents discover that they're having another baby. Pacey and Dawson take (very small) steps toward reconciliation after the former's boat is swept into a storm and the latter risks his neck to save him. Jen (Michelle Williams) is temporarily ostracized from the group -- and from best friend Jack (Kerr Smith) -- when she lets the already medicated Andie (Meredith Monroe) try Ecstasy at a rave, causing her to collapse and nearly die. But it's Andie who gives the fractured group a chance to heal again when she announces that she's leaving Capeside to spend the rest of the year in Italy (she already got into Harvard early, dontcha know). In her tearjerking farewell, she implores her friends to make up, and it looks as if they will. Grade: B+
"Frasier," NBC, Tuesdays, 9 p.m. ET
In the early '90s -- in its third season -- "Seinfeld" began to structure its episodes around the supporting characters, not the title character. Suddenly, the same seems true about "Frasier." While the love affair between Niles (David Hyde Pierce) and Daphne (Jane Leeves) seemed to be the hook to get viewers back into the show early this fall, it remained the hook throughout most of the season. And it worked. Their relationship has spawned a number of morose storylines thus far, with ex-wives and ex-fiancees plotting against the likable couple, but Frasier himself seems to have been pushed aside, stuck with adequate conflicts such as his displeasure with his wealthy new boss. But it still works. And Niles pretending to still be married in social circles is surprisingly hilarious each time. Grade: B+
"Spin City," ABC, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET
No, you can't blame Charlie Sheen alone for "Spin City's" decline in popularity. It really comes down to the writing. Only one episode of "Spin City" this fall has been impressive -- the one where Sheen and Heather Locklear lock horns on the set of "Live With Regis" -- but little else has proven to be much of a surprise. Sure, Sheen's character, the deputy mayor of New York, is narcissistic, and yes, he has a tainted history with drugs, but didn't we already expect that? It's not Sheen's fault that this sort of cliched writing took place. It's not Locklear's fault that she has little chemistry with him. And it's not the viewers' fault for wanting to change the channel - even though it means the certain demise of one of their previously most beloved shows. We miss ya, Mike. Grade: C-
"Popular," WB, Fridays, 9 p.m. ET
The WB's "Popular" is one of the most underrated and funniest shows on television. It's sad that it's been relegated to a Friday night spot. The show boasts a fabulous ensemble cast of pretty people vs. Everyday people, although the two sides have been mingling more and more. School stud turned social pariah Josh Ford (Bryce Johnson) has hooked up with tree-hugger Lily Esposito (Tamara Mello) after the pair rescued a gay chimpanzee from the L.A. Zoo. It's a lame pairing, but player-player Josh has already hooked up with the rest of the ladies on the show, so I guess Lil' Lily was next. Alarming this season: Instead of funny gags such as kidnapping Gwyneth Paltrow's personal shopper and competing ruthlessly for Homecoming Queen, "Popular" has turned to Very Special Episodes. Harrison John (Christopher Gorham) is battling leukemia, Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels) has cried ... twice(!) ... over her fall from popularity, Carmen Ferrera's (Sara Rue) mother is an alcoholic, and both reigning Homecoming Queen Brooke McQueen (Leslie Bibb) and Mike "Sugar Daddy" Bernadino are battling eating disorders. Not very funny stuff. This season has been more about tears over sadness and struggles rather than laughter. As Mary Cherry (the always hilarious Leslie Grossman) would say, let's get some laughs back, hon. And pronto! Grade: B-
"Ally McBeal," Fox, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET
After a disappointing third season, David E. Kelley's series was in need of some serious spice. Kelley tried everything to raise ratings, from a lesbian lip-lock to some full-blown musical mishmash, but nothing could save the sinking show. In a final act of desperation, Kelley brought in a fresh-from-the-cell Robert Downey Jr. Little did Kelley know that the criminal element would bring such critical success this fall. As a cute, clever attorney named Larry, Downey's straight but sarcastic delivery is the perfect foil for Ally's (Calista Flockhart) high-strung hysteria. He steals every scene with his flawless timing, then punctuates even the simplest sentence with that trademark sexy smirk. Downey may have been sent in to rekindle the spark, but his presence has set the show on fire and made "Ally McBeal" a must-see on Monday nights again. Grade: B+
Reviews by Jason Alcorn, Kit Bowen, Tracey Pollack, Ellen A. Kim and Don Chareunsy.