2013 Movie Reviews: Philomena

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Let’s be honest, we all suspected that Harvey Weinstein was going to throw one of his movies in the Best Picture race. While some people suspected The Butler or August: Osage County, the film that ended up in the spot was Philomena, the true story  that made a strong impression at both the Globes and the BAFTAs. And now it’s nominated for four Academy Awards! Including Best Actress and Best Picture Of The… I’m starting to sound like one of those FYC ads that I keep seeing on TV.

Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is a British reporter looking for his next big story when he comes across an irish woman named Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) who had her son taken away from her almost fifty years prior. Martin agrees to look for her son with her, hoping to get a great story. But what he discovers changes not only Philomena’s life, but his as well.

Now, what I really remember about the movie is the script. Not only does the script craft a beautiful story, but the dialogue is some of the best of the year, managing to be both true to life and quotable. A good example is this exchange between Martin and Philmonena early in the film. “Do you believe in God?” “Well, where to begin? I mean that’s a really hard question to answer simply. Do you?” “Yes.”

But that’s not all. Judi Dench gives an amazing performance that needs to be seen to be believed, and she really nailed her Irish accent. She reminded me a lot of my maternal grandmother, who is just as kind and just as Irish. (Although my grandmother never wanted to watch any Tyler Perry movies. You’ll understand when you see it.) Steve Coogan doesn’t have much to do, but he definitely makes the translation from a comedic actor to a dramatic one better than Ben Stiller.

While the film does succeed in what it’s trying to do, and I do respect it, I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. In a year like this, a film needs to truly wow me in order to get five stars. But Philomena did impress me, and it’s certainly worth your time.

****1/2

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