We have a special episode this week, a companion to our discussion last week of Notes on a Scandal. We visit with the Dame, Judi Dench. We discuss her film career, with deep dives into an early entry A Room With a View (1986) and the film that launched her film stardom Mrs. Brown (1997). Returning for this conversation with our host Murtada Elfadl is writer and critic Teo Bugbee.
Cate Blanchett: Medicine Woman. She’s a healer in 1880s New Mexico in Ron Howard’s Western The Missing (2003). We discuss the film, the performances of Blanchett, Tommy Lee Jones and Evan Rachel Wood. Plus we look into Howard’s filmography including his latest Hillbilly Elegy (2020), while admitting that we can’t find clues there to what he’s obssessed with as a filmmaker. For this conversation Murtada Elfadl welcomes back writer and critic Andrew Kendall, some of Andrew’s film writing can be found here.
From imdb: In 1885 New Mexico, a frontier medicine woman forms an uneasy alliance with her estranged father when her daughter is kidnapped by an Apache brujo. Shades of The Searchers (1956). Also starring Tommy Lee Jones, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd and Aaron Eckhart.
What year did it come out?
Who does Cate play?
Magdalena (Maggie) Gilkeson, a healer in the 1880s American west who has a complicated relationship with her father. It’s Dr. Blanchett, Medicine Woman.
How is Cate introduced?
Immediately sitting in the commode. So Frances McDormand in Nomadland (2020) was not the first current star to be shown defecating in her movie.
Blanchett and Jones are matched well as two idiosyncratic people. There’s a symbiosis to their performances as stubborn loners; believable as father and daughter.
The film is well shot, well acted with an interesting story… why doesn’t it work? Competent though there’s nothing special about it – does that make the quintessential Ron Howard movie?
Too many rescue missions, gunfights…it becomes tedious… action not exciting.
Evan Rachel Wood as a truly stupid colonizer and Elisabeth Moss in a tiny part.
Aaron Eckhart supporting Oscar winning women; see also Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (2000) and Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole (2010). Prefer that to his current iteration as a sometimes action star (the …Has Fallen movies).
Topics Discussed: Ron Howard
What do we think of his filmography? What kind of director is he – beyond a competent studio filmmaker? His filmography offers scant detail to what he’s obsessed with.
This was his follow to the Oscar winning success of A Beautiful Mind (2001) and the mega box office of How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) i.e. he could do what he wanted and he chose this.
Murtada chooses Apollo 13 (1995) as his best movie, Andrew favors Parenthood (1989)- do they recall any of his other films? What made that successful?
Thoughts on latest, Hillbilly Elegy.
Film within context of Cate’s career:
Came out at the tail end of the years where she was experimenting with different genres (discussed previously The Gift, The Man Who Cried) and different directors without lasting impact. The Aviatorcomes a year later and starts a few years of an amazing run till 2008 when she leaves film to run the Sydney Theater Company.
What reviews said of film / Cate:
“As for Blanchett, she’s simply wonderful. She has played her share of queenly figures, but her acting essence is, emotionally speaking, plain-Jane. She’s a straight shooter, with an uncanny ability to find a character’s spine and communicate it without fuss or feathers.”- Richard Schickel, Time.
From IMDB: A loving mom becomes compelled to reconnect with her creative passions after years of sacrificing herself for her family. Her leap of faith takes her on an epic adventure that jump-starts her life and leads to her triumphant rediscovery.
Based on the novel by Maria Semple, a former TV writer who worked on such shows as Suddenly Susan,Mad About You, and Arrested Development.
Who does Cate play?
Bernadette Fox – one of many titular characters Cate has played.Charlotte Gray, Veronica Guerin, Blue Jasmine, Carol.
Bernadette is a genius who suffered a major career setback. Can she recover? That’s the movie’s premise.
The film is effective in building the marriage story and the mother daughter relationship but the social satire from maria Semple’s book is lost.
A highlight scene singing Time After Time, Cate undercuts by tearing up “I retain the right to being moved by those little things no one notices”
Was Richard Linklater miscast? The book is a social satire and that gets lost in this adaptation.
The woes of this adaptation as detailed in a Vulture article. There was a script written by Michael H Weber and Scott Neustadler who wrote 500 Days of Summer and The Spectacular Now but jettisoned by Linklater who brought in his own collaborators.
Blanchett as a physical comedian when “talking” with Bernadette’s virtual assistant Manjula.
“Blanchett remains best when playing unravelling women, however this is not a companion performance to her signature Oscar winning role in Blue Jasmine (2013) but rather I found myself thinking of another of her creations. The bored housewife who chooses to be kidnapped by bank robbers rather than continue filling her days with housework, in Bandits (2001). Bernadette is just as trapped as Kate Wheeler was and Blanchett manages to imbue her with the right chaotic temperenant to convey a woman confined by psychological trappings she can’t begin to face, let alone conquer. She’s always been a master of gestural acting and here she plays up her facial expressions and gives her body movement a fussy restless energy to show us how Bernadette is longing for more.”
The second season of the podcast has wrapped. My thanks to all my guests on this 2nd season of Sundays with Cate. Hope you enjoy all 14 episodes that we recorded. I will taking a short break and will return later in the summer. Notes on a Scandal, Carol we have a few movies we havent discussed as well as other surprises in store for Season 3 of the show.
In the meantime all episodes and show notes are available here – just scroll down or click on the right side bar for you favorite podcast app.
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