Posts Tagged ‘maggie gyllenhaal’

Set in 1953/54, this film stars Julia Roberts as Katherine Watson, a graduate student from California, who takes a position teaching Art History at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.  The females under her tutorage are surprised by her subversive attitude (by their standards), and her progressive beliefs, as they all think that they are destined to be wives, mothers and nothing more.  The faculty are unhappy about her teaching methods, with the exception of Italian tutor Bill Dunbar (Dominic West), a charismatic but irresponsible man who has a reputation for sleeping with his students, especially Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is clearly still stuck on him.  The main characters apart from Katherine and Bill are four students, namely Giselle; Joan (Julia Stiles), an intelligent young woman with a yearning to study Law, but who believes that a woman cannot have a career and marriage; Betty (Kirsten Dunst), a particularly spiteful young lady, who is a product of her overbearing mother; and Connie (Ginnifer Goodwin), a sweet-natured girl, who despairs of ever finding a man who loves her.

This film caught my eye purely because Dominic West is in it; as one of my favourite actors, he never disappoints, and as expected, was great here – as indeed was the whole cast.  All four of the main student characters were perfectly played, and I particularly liked Goodwin’s Connie.  Dunst was also outstanding as Betty, even if I could not stand her character for most of the film (nonetheless, her actions are understandable, if not excusable).  I’ve seen some reviews which suggested that Julia Roberts was not well-cast as Katherine Watson, but I beg to differ.  I enjoyed her in this more rounded and human role than some that she played earlier in her career, and enjoyed her chemistry with Dominic West.  Marcia Gay Harden and Juliet Stevenson were wonderful in supporting roles, as Katherine’s housemates, respectively another tutor, and the school nurse (who is fired for providing the students with contraception).

The film was inspiring too – there were some funny moments, and a surprising amount of tear-inducing scenes (I had to watch the last few scenes through my tears).  It was thought-provoking and emotionally satisfying, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first scene to the last.  Very highly recommended.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Mike Newell

Producers: Joe Roth, Richard Baratta, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Paul Schiff, Deborah Schindler

Writers: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal

Main cast: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden

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Jeff Bridges is Bad Blake, a formerly successful country singer, now reduced to playing gigs in bowling alleys and seedy bars, and being the opening act for his former protegee, whose star has now eclipsed Bad.  An alcoholic with with four broken marriages behind him, the only thing that appears to be waiting for Bad is an early grave caused by too much drinking and an unhealthy lifestyle.  His manager wants him to write more music, but Blake can’t really be bothered with it anymore.

When he meets Jane (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a young reporter with a four year old son and a history of choosing the wrong men, it seems that there may be another shot at happiness for both of them.  But Bad has to conquer the demons of his past before he can look forward to any kind of future.  And Jane knows that he could easily be just another in a line of men who are no good for her…

Anyone who knows me knows that Jeff Bridges is my all time favourite actor, and has been for many years.  He finally got his long overdue Oscar for his performance in this movie, and it was well deserved.  In this film, as in all of his others, he makes the viewer forget that they are watching Jeff Bridges the actor, and become immersed in the character.  Played by a different actor, Bad could have been far more unlikeable, but Bridges produces a character whose flaws are evident, but who its possible to still care about and root for.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is also excellent as Jane (she received an Oscar nomination for this performance), bringing a sense of vulnerability to this character who has had a rough deal in life, and who is determined to do the best for her young boy.

Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell play smaller supporting roles – Duvall as a bartending friend who wants to help Bad get his life back on track, and Farrell as country singer Tommy Sweet who was given his first big break by Bad Blake, and who has now become a huge star.

It’s also worth noting that there is a great soundtrack to this film, consisting of many original country songs – several of which are sung by Jeff Bridges – and although it’s never been a favourite genre of mine, the songs are easy to listen to and enjoyable.  It is not necessary to be a fan of country music to enjoy the film.

This film is happy, sad, funny and ultimately redemptive – I would definitely recommend it.

Year of release: 2009

Director: Scott Cooper

Writers: Thomas Cobb (book), Scott Cooper

Main cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell

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