Friday, January 2, 2009

How About You (Rhoades)

How About Seeing ‘How About You’?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Before you get out of the Christmas mood, there’s a fine little film called “How About You” that’s still playing at the Tropic Cinema.

It’s the story of four residents of an assisted living retirement home in Ireland, a group of curmudgeons so disruptive they are collectively known as “the hardcore.”
The home is struggling to keep its doors open, because the grumpy behavior of the hardcore foursome discourages newcomers.

Kate Harris (Orla Brady) runs the retirement home, an old estate that she poured her life savings into. Joining the staff is her younger sister Ellie (Hayley Atwell), a college dropout who needs a place to live for a while. Ellie had rather smoke pot than worry about a bunch of olds geezers, but here she is, as lost as the home’s elderly residents.

This holiday season all the oldsters have gone off to visit their families – except for the hardcore: Donald Vanston (Joss Ackland), once a judge before alcoholism forced him off the bench. Georgia Platts (Vanessa Redgrave), a former movie star who has dropped out of society in grand Garbo style. Hazel Nightengale (Imelda Staunton) and her sister Heather (Brenda Fricker), two spinster sisters who can’t cope with life – or each other.

Things take a dramatic turn when Kate is suddenly called away, leaving Ellie in charge of the retirement home and its gang of four. When they try to pull their spiteful routines on her, the young caregiver shakes off her apathy and … you guessed it … reminds them what living is all about.

In the end, the film delivers a simple message: that loneliness is to be avoided and you shouldn’t stop living until you have taken your last breath.

Directed by Dublin-born Anthony Bryne, the storyline is predictable, but in a comforting way. One online blogger described it as being like “a Hallmark Movie of the Week ... only with a really nice cast.” Is that a bad thing?

You’ve seen Hayley Atwell in such costume dramas as “The Duchess” and “Brideshead Revisited.” Getting the acting bug after appearing in a 2005 Pringles TV commercial, she landed her first feature role opposite Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell in Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dreams.”

In addition to 26-year-old Hayley Atwell, “How About You” features a great cast of seasoned veterans.

Vanessa Redgrave needs no introduction, an illustrious member of the Redgrave family of actors. Her films have ranged from “Camelot” to “Blowup,” from “A Man for All Seasons” to “Julia” (for which she won an Academy Award).

Another familiar face, Brenda Fricker picked up her Academy Award for “My Left Foot.”
You’ll recognize Imelda Standon as bad witch Dorothy Umbridge in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

And Joss Ackland has appeared in over 130 films, not to mention TV shows. You’ll remember him as the villain in “Lethal Weapon 2.”

Also notable is the late Joan O’Hara, movingly portraying a woman on the verge of death in what turned out to be her last role.

“How About You?” is based on a short story by popular Irish writer Maeve Binchy, best known for her novel “Circle of Friends” (which was made into a movie starring Chris O’Donnell and Minnie Driver).

As Binchy tells us on her website: “‘How About You’ was a short story originally called ‘The Hard Core,’ which appeared in the original collection ‘This Year It Will Be Different.’ Then Ferndale Productions made this delightful film, which has a great script and a marvelous cast which includes Vanessa Redgrave and Hayley Atwell. I do hope you will all enjoy it.”
Apparently everyone isn’t a fan. One blogger sighed, “Yet another Maeve Binchy movie.” Another called it “lame and predictable.”

Others declared the movie to be “touching and heartwarming.” I agreed with them.
In a recent interview co-star Joss Ackland called some of his previous films “awful” and “embarrassing.” But “How About You” didn’t fall into that category. He admits he likes the film’s message.

Who knows, he says. Maybe we can all learn to live a little while we’re waiting to die.
[from Solares Hill]

No comments: