Those “English Tea Party” kind of films
usually have a lot of talk, and very little of
anything that resembles action, and this one is no
talk, however, is exceptional.
It’s based on the Noel Coward play, which
Hitchcock already converted to film, but this time
the screenplay is re-written, and the dialogue
sounds more “modern,” though everyone is still
in period costume.
It’s after World War One, landed gentry,
English countryside, baronial estate.
The lord of the manor, played by Colin
Firth, appears somewhat unkempt, somewhat
distracted, and a lot detached.
It turns out that the war experience, where
he lost his entire company of men somewhere in the
killing fields of
, has left him battle-scarred, shell-shocked,
world-weary, and cynical.
Which is why his super-take-charge wife,
played by Kristin Scott Thomas, has to run the
household, which she does, efficiently and
mirthlessly and caustically.
The two grown daughters are somehow both
self-centered and beaten-down.
They wouldn’t survive outside of the
bounds of their regal little cocoon, where
everything is not quite as prosperous as it
they’d sooner sell off land than let the
servants go-----appearances being everything, you
one wouldn’t think of doing something so
demeaning as actually working for a living, like
the poor commoners.
It would seem that idleness is regarded as
Into this stodgy morass of stifling
snobbery bursts the blonde bombshell, the racy
young American woman (Jessica Biel) who races a
car in the Grand Prix, no less.
Their child-like grown son has hauled off
and married her, and is bringing her home as the
prize trophy of his carefree vacation abroad.
Mother is mortified.
The sisters are equally catty, vicious, and
been-around-the-block-a-couple-times American girl
can’t understand how these patronizing people
can be so snooty even while disaster overtakes
them, but then, that’s the British stiff upper
lip, thinly disguising a sneer.
Will the titled family ever accept this
interloper from the rebellious colonies, the
scandalous stranger with the easy virtue?
Will the adult son wake up and realize that
his family is destroying his young marriage?
Will the disapproving mother ever relent
and even be civil to the bumpkin bride?
And will lethargic father stir out of his
sardonic fog long enough to make the only
emotional connection possible in this angst-ridden
Moviegoers who seek witty dialogue will
enjoy this one.
Those who yearn for chase scenes,
explosions, violence, sex, nudity, and street
language will have to go elsewhere.
When have you been
the newcomer, and were treated shabbily?
When have you
disdained the newcomer to your family, and did you
manage to disguise your disappointment?
What ending would you
would you interpret this ending?
P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church,