Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Movie Review: "Philomena"

Director Stephen Frears' new film, Philomena, is based on a true story.  The film follows Judi Dench as Philomena Lee, an old Irish Catholic woman who had to give up her son for adoption 50 years ago.  Philomena and her daughter enlist the aid of a disgraced reporter, portrayed by Steve Coogan, to help her track her lost son down.

The remarkable thing about Frears' direction is that he never lays it on too thick with syrupy sentiment, which does serve the story well and keeps it from being a Lifetime Channel Original Movie, however the film's script is heavy handed in other areas.  The emotional beats work and feel authentic, but it's the script's negative view of the Catholic church, and religion in general, that is so one-sided.  While we often get Philomena sticking up for her religion when bashed by Coogan's character, the film has clearly chosen the side it's on, which is not fair to the other half of the population that will see this film who are religious.

All in all, this is a film with remarkable performances from Coogan, and especially Dame Judi Dench in a role that is sure to get her Oscar recognition.  Dench makes you feel Philomena's pain, while still having a sunny outlook on life that is infectious and leads to some surprisingly cheeky humor at times that will have you nearly falling out of your seat laughing.  If the film just wasn't so one-sided on particular issues, perhaps it might have rated higher with me, but alas no.

I give Philomena a C+!

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