Lucy Popescu

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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Wilkinson’

Film review – Denial

Posted by lucypopescu on January 29, 2017

denialMick Jackson’s court room drama, Denial, focuses on the 1996 British libel suit brought by David Irving (Timothy Spall), the infamous Holocaust denier, against American historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her publisher Penguin Books. Based on Lipstadt’s book, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for screen by David Hare, Denial offers some fascinating insights into Irving’s twisted logic and the intricacies of British law.

When Irving claims that Lipstadt’s book had attempted to destroy his reputation as a historian, Lipstadt is shocked to discover that the burden of proof is on the defendant. She is forced to come to London to argue her case with the help of British solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), a rising star after having represented Diana in her divorce from Prince Charles. Irving’s claims are outrageous – that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were not used to kill Jews (according to Irving they were built to kill lice) and that Hitler had in fact opposed the murder of European Jewry. Because there is no photographic evidence of the actual genocide, these claims have to be tested in a court of law. More worryingly, Lipstadt’s representatives have to prove that Irving intentionally lied about the Holocaust and isn’t just effectively in denial.

Lipstadt has a formidable team working for her, including leading libel barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), while Irving chooses to represent himself in the hope of gaining public sympathy for what he refers to as a “David vs. Goliath” conflict. Even if one doesn’t already know the outcome of this renowned legal case, it’s pretty obvious who is going to triumph from the outset and this drains a degree of tension from the judge’s deliberations. Wisely, Hare’s screenplay focuses on Lipstadt’s conflicts with her legal team’s strategies and their refusal to allow her or any Holocaust survivors to take the stand. They argue that Irving, rather than the Holocaust, should be on trial. Lipstadt believes that survivors should not be denied a voice.

Apart from shots of Lipstadt’s seminars with her students, her morning runs, meetings with lawyers and a poignant visit to the remains of Auschwitz with Rampton, Denial is set largely in and around the court room. There are some excellent performances – in particular from Spall as the slippery and odious denier and Wilkinson as the wine-loving barrister who proves disconcertingly sharp-witted. Given the alarming rise of far right xenophobia, a film that portrays this memorable defence against fascism and the rewriting of history, feels exceptionally timely. There are more than a few parallels to be drawn between the swagger and deviousness of Irving and another well known falsifier, President Trump.

Originally published by



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Film Review – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Posted by lucypopescu on July 2, 2012

A stellar British cast, including Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson, ensure that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has the feelgood factor without the cloying sentimentality of some romantic comedies. Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel, These Foolish Things, six OAPs arrive in Jaipur, India, in a bid to avoid stagnating in Britain. They are joined by Muriel (Smith) who has reluctantly travelled abroad for a hip operation.

They are all headed for the eponymous “retirement” hotel run by the exuberant Sonny (Dev Patel). Sonny is attempting to resurrect his dead father’s business and restore the building to its former glory. He’s also working on winning the love of his sweetheart Sunaina (Tena Desae). But he desperately needs funds and his mother’s approval. Despite the dilapidated state of the rooms, the elderly Brits decide to stay and find themselves profoundly changed by their various experiences.

Evelyn (Dench) is mourning the death of a husband who left her a pile of debts and broken promises. Graham (Wilkinson) is a former High Court judge returning to India to find a lost love. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) are in search of erotic adventure and Douglas (Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are an argumentative couple unable to contemplate the prospect of moving into a retirement home together.

We can anticipate that their interactions with one another, and India’s chaotic charm, will affect them all but, despite the predictability of the plot, it’s a joyous journey that unfolds with genuine wit and warmth and with plenty of surprises along the way.

This kind of bittersweet comedy is what the British do best and it’s heartening to see a film that focuses on the rites of passage of the elderly. Director John Madden gives each of the characters’ stories equal weight. The central message is that it is never too late to realise your dreams but the challenges that the characters face are not simplistic and there are no easy choices. Although the transformation of Murial from an irascible bigot to unlikely saviour of the hotel may seem overly neat, there is truth in her shift of ideals – she is motivated by a selfish desire to be needed rather than pure altruism. The blossoming love between two of the characters and Graham’s reconnection with his past are also subtly drawn.

Part of the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is down to its impressive cast. Nighy and Smith provide much of the laugh out loud humour while Dench and Wilkinson bring gravitas to their roles. It’s also beautifully shot with Ben Davis’s camera capturing all the colour, squalor and mayhem of Jaipur.

Originally published by Cine-vue

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