Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.
So, here is what I watched this past week:
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
It’s easy to make a villain detestable. It’s simple to make a generous character lovable. It’s another thing altogether to add dimension and depth to a character with large character flaws and make them a sympathetic character. Maggie Smith, inarguably one of the great actresses of our time, controls the influential teacher Jean Brodie with precision and grace.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie tells the story of an idealistic, romantic history teacher at an all girls school where in lieu of the lessons her headmistress wishes her to teach, she recounts the glorious stories of history as if they were the plots of classic Victorian romantic literature. She wants to use the prime of her life to inform and influence a young generation of women. Her ideas, however, are far from normal, preferring to idealize the likes of Italian leader Benito Mussolini and Spanish general Francisco Franco, two of the most prominent current and future leaders in the fascist movement in Europe.
While the actions and motivations of a character like Jean Brodie seem selfish, Smith’s talent gives her a delicate mien, a confidence that helps keep her the pinnacle of beauty and success in the eyes of young girls whose exposure to radical ideas was minimal. She carries herself as a prominent member of society while lacking the courage to make the changes in her life that she expect her girls to make in theirs. Smith gives Miss Brodie all the characteristics of a tragic Shakespearean character, both the assets and the flaws. She embodies the very ideals her character preaches enabling the audience to feel pity for her own self-destruction while reviling the less idealistic aspects of her character.
The film would be little else without her, she is supported by an able cast including a group of talented young women most of whose careers were sadly shorter than they should have been. The writing is razor sharp and witty, a terrific adaptation of a complex theatrical experience transported beyond the dusty boards of an old playhouse to a wide array of interesting locales that never feel claustrophobic or stage-bound.