Dead Again 1991 Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Private detective Mike Church (Kenneth Branagh) is asked to help identify a woman with amnesia who can’t speak and has nightmares. He asks friend/reporter Pete Dugan to print her picture in hopes someone might come forward. Antiques dealer/ hypnotist (?!) Franklyn Madsen (Derek Jacobi-aptly creepy) approaches the detective. He suggests that hypnosis might help recover her memory. When that’s unsuccessful, Franklyn takes her through past life regression.
During the latter, the woman Mike now calls Grace (Emma Thompson) details the lives of Margaret Straus murdered in 1949 and her husband Roman convicted of the crime. We see the past she remembers. Mike falls in love with the now speaking Grace, who remains wary of him. A magazine cover shows they bear striking resemblance to the 1949 couple. The detective agrees to his own regression discovering something startling he keeps to himself. Pete tells Mike he’s learned that Grace is artist Amanda Sharp. They visit her studio which contains more clues.
Eventually everything is made clear, but not before considerable misunderstanding/accusation, violence and another attempted murder. A gripping noir film with a dash of the supernatural. Thompson and Branagh were married at the time. Black and white scenes depict the past, while color is used for the present. Free with Amazon Prime.
Howard’s End 1992 Based on the novel by E.M. Forster. Directed by James Ivory. In a weekend at Howard’s End, country home of the Wilcoxes, Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter) almost gets engaged to Paul Wilcox (Joseph Banks). Months later in London, Ruth and Henry Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave and Anthony Hopkins) take a flat across from the Schlegels: Helen, older sister Margaret (Emma Thompson) and younger brother Tibby (Adrian Ross Magenty). The Wilcoxes are wealthy, conservative, and class conscious while the Schlegels are friendly, bohemian intellectuals careful with their limited income.
Margaret strikes up an acquaintance with the ailing Ruth who sees her as a kindred soul. Ruth wants very much for her new friend to visit Howard’s End, a place she’s described in detail to which Margaret has responded with sympathetic emotion. Opportunity is missed. Just before her death, Ruth scribbles a note leaving Howard’s End to Margaret. When it’s discovered, her husband and children tear it up.
Meanwhile, Helen and Margaret get involved in the life of poverty stricken clerk Leonard Bast (Samuel Best) whom they kindly attempt to help. Henry warns in passing that Leonard’s bank is about to fail. The young man quits, ending up unemployed. His bank is just fine. Much to the chagrin and surprise of both families, Henry starts to court Margaret. She accepts his marriage proposal because of security issues, but not without curious affection. Their marriage is a house of cards affecting the Wilcoxes, Schlegels, and Basts.
A splendid film in all aspects this won Best Actress, Best Screenplay and Best Art Direction Academy Awards. When Vanessa Redgrave, always slated to be Ruth appeared on set, the actress was surprised to discover she wasn’t playing Margaret. Stay clear of the watered down remake. Rent on Amazon rime.
Remains of the Day 1993 Adapted from the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Directed by James Ivory. The film, told in flashback, takes place at Darlington Hall in the 1930s. Inhabited by Lord Darlington (James Fox), the house is managed by butler Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), and housekeeper, Miss (Sarah) Kenton (Emma Thompson). When Miss Kenton first arrives, the two strong-willed employees often disagree, but as time goes on they grow to respect and secretly like one another. Kenton is warm and expressive, while Stevens is repressed and detached.
The noble, a fascist sympathizer, hosts important politicians in an effort to broker a policy of appeasement. Ideas expressed at a gathering are dark reminder. Miss Kenton wishes she had the resources to quit and is upset when Stevens unquestioning of his employer’s “honorable intentions” doesn’t speak up, even in private. After telling the butler of a marriage proposal hoping he would object, Miss Kenton leaves the great house.
It’s 1958. Darlington has died, the house changed owners. Stevens stays on but needs a housekeeper and thinks fondly of Miss Kenton. He motors to see her. Once again, as she’s separated, Stevens has a chance, but nothing has changed in their opposite demeanors. Terrifically nuanced acting. Wonderful script. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Much Ado About Nothing 1993 William Shakespeare’s play, adapted and directed for the screen by Kenneth Branagh. If you’re familiar with the play, this is a joyous reminder of how well it can be realized. If not, the film is a wonderful introduction to one of the bard’s most successful romantic comedies. With Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh (married to each other at the time), Robert Sean Leonard, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton, Keanu Reeves, and Kate Beckinsale (film debut).
Desson Thomson of the Washington Post said, “Kenneth Branagh has, once again, blown away the forbidding academic dust and found a funny retro-essence for the ’90s.” Thompson is radiant. Free with Amazon Prime.
Sense and Sensibility 1995 Based on the Jane Austen novel. Directed by Ang Lee. Adapted by Emma Thompson. Elinor, Marianne, Margaret Dashwood (Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Emilie Francoise ) and their mother (Gemma Jones) face destitution when Mr. Dashwood dies. Though his last wish was that his son, John (James Fleet), from a first marriage, take care of the women, John’s wife Fanny (Harriet Walter) has other ideas. Visiting, Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), shows attraction to Elinor, but Fanny warns her he must marry money or be disinherited.
Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters move in to a house on her cousin’s estate and are frequent guests at main house, Barton Park. There they meet the older Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) who falls in love with Marianne at first sight. One afternoon, the young woman falls in the rain and is rescued by handsome Mr. Willoughby (Greg Wise who would later marry Emma Thompson) with whom she’s immediately smitten.
Brandon turns out to be selfless and indispensable, Willoughby, whether by weakness or choice, unavailable, Ferrars a man with backbone. Lots of miscommunication and class issues arise between. Beautifully done. They all look so young! Rent on Amazon Prime.
Carrington 1995 Based on Lytton Strachey: A Critical Biography and Lytton Strachey by Michael Holyrod, drawing on diaries and letters. About the life of painter Dora Carrington, called Carrington (1893-1932). Directed by Christopher Hampton. The film revolves around The Bloomsbury Group, a circle of free thinking artists and intellectuals.
We meet artist Carrington (Emma Thompson), writer/critic Giles Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce), painter/interior designer Vanessa Bell (Janet McTeer), painter Mark Gertler (Rufus Sewell) who had an ostensibly unconsummated relationship with Carrington and inspired characters in D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love and Aldous Huxley’s Chrome Yellow, and Reginald Sherring Partridge = Ralph (Stephen Waddington) who married Carrington despite her unrequited love for Strachey.
Strachey first takes Carrington for a boy and is disappointed to learn the truth. She falls in literally life or death love while he finds her companionable. They move in together and are visited by or cohabit with the others plus Strachey’s male lovers and an occasional lusty Carrington stray. Think of it as musical chairs. A slice of life film with glimpses of an intriguing set. Thompson is entirely credible. Pryce is marvelous. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Last Chance Harvey 2008 can be found under Streaming Grown-Up Love Stories I Saving Mr. Banks 2013 can be found under Streaming Films About Writing, Books, Bookstores II
Angels in America 2018 Based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Tony Kushner. A miniseries Directed by Mike Nichols. As brilliant and ground- breaking as you’ve heard. The film revolves around six New Yorkers, the AIDS crisis, traditional values, changing social and political climate. Cliff Notes below barely tell a complex story encompassing love, loneliness, rejection, death, fate and forgiveness.
When Prior Walter (Justin Kirk) tells his lover Louis (Ben Shenkman) he has AIDS, Louis leaves him. Morman lawyer Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson) is headed for employment by the Justice Department with help from conservative fixer attorney Roy Cohn (Al Pacino), who has AIDS. Both men are closeted gays. Joe’s wife Harper (Mary-Louise Parker) is addicted to vallium and careening towards death or divorce. Prior Walter is visited by Angel America (Emma Thompson) who demands he rise to his destiny as prophet. Drag queen Norman “Belize” Arriaga (Jeffrey Wright) encourages him.
Every main actor plays multiple diverse roles. Thompson is also a nurse and a homeless woman, Meryl Streep a Rabbi and Ethel Rosenberg. With James Cromwell, Michael Gambon, and Simon Callow. In 2004, the program garnered 21 Emmy nominations, winning 11 awards. Free with HBO Trial.
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