Judi Dench. It cannot be overstated: I am madly, truly, deeply, emphatically, insanely in love with Judi Dench.
Nevermind that she’s my favorite actress and has been for like, eternity. I also think she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. I say this after going to see The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel last night, and falling deeply under the spell of her warmth, grace and inner beauty yet again. And that laugh! That easy, affectionate, joyous, so-willing-to-enjoy-and-be amused laugh. I mean, yes, she’s still wonderful to look at–that white hair, blazing blue eyes, tanned skin (she’s in India) and incredible bone structure. (And I love the wardrobe.) But really, she has what I wish Meryl Streep had, which is more humanity than she can possibly hold in her own skin. She fills the screen with it, and it is a humanity so rich in love that I leave every performance glad I belong to the species.
Like I said, it cannot be overstated.
As for the movie, it’s too sweet, and the characters are types, and you know, in this case, those things just don’t matter. India, as a character, as a world, is so fascinating, and these veteran actors are just so damn good, all you care about is watching them do magic. That much talent in one movie is something to swoon over. Plus, think how good they’d have to be for me to forgive the director (John Madden, Shakespeare in Love) for taking the camera off Dame Judi for a flat second (and he has directed her again and again, lucky him).
Really, this blog is just an excuse to revel in talking about my major talent and humanity crush on Dench, so I might as well just say her name about 50,000 times and get it over with.
Or I could say that I just prefer British actors to American. And fine, there are some youngish actors I really like, like Maggie Gyllenhaal (her brother’s not bad either), Mark Ruffalo (his performance in You Can Count on Me is still one of the best I’ve ever seen), Michael C. Hall (my favorite actor from 6 Feet Under and so deserving of his role on Dexter, which requires such range), Vera Farmiga, not to mention Viola Davis, who is my favorite American actor and has the humanity that Dench has but also a stream of real rage, sadness and passion in her roles. I like Phillip Seymour Hoffman and James Gandolfini as well and I even like Sandra Bullock and Selma Hayek (so under-rated, think Frida).
But then think of Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith…or the less well known Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), Idris Elba or Ruth Wilson (these last two from Luther, and they are great together and Ruth Wilson is AMAZING and absolutely to watch. The problem is that for the most part, you put any American actor next to one from the UK and the American may look talented, but he or she often also looks immature, not so well-layered, not so committed, and definitely not as generous to his or her ensemble. It’s very difficult to find a single American movie with the uniform level of excellence in acting we find in all of the major league television and film from the UK.
I’m not an Anglophile. I may be a Judi Dench-ophile, but you know, love is love. I’d really love to know what they’re doing over there that we’re missing, or is just that pop culture undermines the deeper values of making cinema or any art form. (Of course it does in this country. Hollywood sucks.)
Anyhow, back to Judi. And back. And back. See the movie. I’ll probably be there, at the Kendall, swooning, even though my partner is jealous, so it will have to be when she’s at work.
And look for my upcoming blog on Yo-Yo Ma who I saw on PBS doing the Goat Rodeo Sessions and fell for immediately and again. The man is made of joy. As with Dame Judi, I’d just like to sit in a room with him and absorb that through my skin. He wouldn’t even have to say hello. (Which is good, because he probably wouldn’t.)