Philomena

Breaking: Dame Judi Dench Is Not Entirely Perfect

Judi Dench in 'Philomena'

Judi Dench’s charming, Oscar-nominated performance as the eponymous character carries with it a rather shaky Irish accent.

I’m trembling, deigning to disparage one of the greatest actresses in cinema, particularly in this fine performance. So let me clarify that this isn’t one of those embarrassingly overwrought or perplexingly unrecognizable attempts at an accent. The problem is she does not commit. There are moments when—to my admittedly untrained American ears—her accent is convincing. But those moments last about half a line of dialogue every twenty minutes of film. The rest of the time it is just Judi Dench’s (glorious, enviable) regular voice.

This is shaking my world-view. There is something Dame Judi Dench cannot do perfectly.

Representations of Female Sexual Desire: The Roundup

Stanley and Blanche

Check out all of the posts for Representations of Female Sexual Desire Theme Week here.

The Sin of Sexuality: Desire in ‘Philomena’

'Philomena' movie poster

Sex is everywhere and nowhere in ‘Philomena.’ Sex is the reason that the titular heroine is sent to Roscrea as a young woman, to have her illegitimate baby behind closed doors. Sex is also the reason that Philomena’s son, Anthony, is adopted out to an American family even though his mother is still living.

What Shakespeare Can Teach Us About Rape Culture

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In ‘Titus Andronicus,’ Lavinia is brutally raped and disfigured (including having her tongue cut out so she couldn’t speak). This nod to Philomela in Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ echoes the themes of the brutality of rape and the need for revenge. The women needed to name their rapists and share their stories (Lavinia writes in the sand; Philomela weaves a tapestry that tells her story). The women have as much power as they can in the confines of their society, and we the audience are meant to want justice and revenge.

Cute Old Ladies Who Talk Dirty in ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Philomena’

June Squibb as Kate in Nebraska

But Payne doesn’t seem to give much thought to Kate’s situation. In all but one scene Kate is called on to be testy and not much else. Even though we laugh as she chirps the cause of death of a late, but not lamented relative and we feel satisfied when she cusses out greedy members of Woody’s family, the character is more of an exclamation point than a person.

Women’s Bodies in the Oscar-Nominated Films

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What is telling is the presence of so many films that either elide or sexualize female bodies in the category that presumably represents the best of the best. The Academy clearly has a critical preference for movies about men, with women present primarily as wives and sex objects.

‘Philomena’: A Feminist Gender and Religion Critique

Philomena Poster Alt

Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman who got pregnant as a teenager and was relegated to a convent where she was forced to perform grueling manual labor before her young son was sold to an adoptive US family. Fifty years later, Philomena works with a washed-up ex-journalist to find her son while he uncovers the dark truth behind her son’s adoption and the church’s betrayal. Overall, I’d say this is a feminist film that tries to expose oppressive gender roles that linger on today and allows its heroine, played by the exquisite Dame Judi Dench, to be her own person: a woman who makes her own decisions and mistakes while remaining irrepressibly full of humor and love.