It’s no secret the Oscar race is a golden one. With the likes of Meryl and Martin popping up almost ceaselessly, year to year, it’s a rare year (and an even rarer win) for someone under the age of 30 to get the nod.
This year is no different. With a race including so many of the Academy’s most silvered souls, there was a lot to expect with the group of movies they starred in and/or wrote/made.
Which, is why when I saw Philomena, I already had pretty high expectations. Fortunately, with the comedic relief of Steve Coogan, it totally hit the bar. The story is of older woman who finally tells her secret of giving birth to a son when she was a teenager and was then forced to give him up for adoption by the nuns at the Abbey as atonement for her sins. Sheesh, is right.
Now, on what would be his 50th birthday, she decides she’d like to find him, meet him and ask if he thought about her as much as she did him. Judi Dench plays “Phil,” with the innocent audacity of a good-natured old-fashioned. She’s speaks what she thinks when she thinks it, and when it’s paired with Coogan’s cynical frankness, we are treated to a unique weave of comedic drama. It’s like one of the stories you start reading, and you just immediately feel a closeness and affection towards the character, simply because of their candid admittance of faults. It’s refreshing and real, and carries this story through to the end.
Now, in other newsworthy performances of old (people), you’ve got the fascinating, humor-filled candor of Nebraska. Starring Bruce Dern as the black-and-white Woody Grant on a tireless trek to claim the million dollars he’s won from a magazine promotional company hundreds of miles away. When his family won’t take him, he decides to walk… which as anyone with old, ornery kin know, means someone just has to take him.
The task falls on his son, played by the adorable Will Forte, who is endearing as the son who seems to finally be getting to know his dad. Director Alexander Payne does a great job of revealing the facets of unconditional love and their repercussions through these guys – making us laugh, sigh and “aw” our way to the end.
It helps that (yet another) nominated senior, June Squibb, makes this movie funnier (and more crass) than you would have thought. It’s the definition of a well-rounded story, and one that I continually tell people is a must watch! Hands down, it was the only Oscar film (that I’ve seen) that I would be up for watching again (not counting Gatsby). The story is feel good, even when the subject isn’t all that much to feel good about. But, I think that’s what does it. It’s about families being families, surviving, having fun and loving.