Iris

It smacks a bit of that sort of Lifetime ‘disease of the week’ schmaltz, but it rises above it because it’s ultimately a love story about Jim Broadbent’s character. Judi Dench is heartbreaking and does a great job with a subtle and effective transformation. It’s remarkable how well she can drain her eyes of that sharp intelligent gleam and just go blank (cf. Billy Bob Thornton in Man Who Wasn’t There and Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day). But this really is Jim Broadbent’s movie. It’s the sort of thing that would make me want to rent a bunch of Jim Broadbent movies if he hadn’t spent so much of his career on thankless character roles.

 -Tom

Kate Winslet’s butt is hypnotizing.

I felt about this movie the way I felt about Sling Blade. I could tell that they were both well made and well written, but the fact is, I’m just not comfortable around retarded people, and I’m just not comfortable around senile people.

I couldn’t agree more, despite my adolescent crush on Kate Winslet and the chance to see her boobies. However, I didn’t like the movie Iris very much despite my admiration for the person it is based on. The reason is not only that is it Jim Broadbent’s movie, but it is also John Bayley’s movie (the character he plays.) I felt very sad for Iris for the obvious reasons, but I was actually heartbroken for John Bayley. He was a quiet, bookish man who dearly, dearly loved this woman; but it seemed to me that she didn’t return the love in the same degree, certainly not in the early going when she would toy with her boyfriends. He was, as they both silently acknowledged, her intellectual inferior and it seemed to me that they were both in love with the same person: Iris.

Yet Alzheimer’s had an effect on John that was arguably every bit as devestating. Not only did he have to watch the beautiful woman and brilliant philosoher detoriate before his eyes, but his needs and concerns were once again pushed to the periphery. All through his life he was secondary, to Iris, to her career and now to her disease. And when Iris died the movie has to come to an end, because, well, the loss of a great intellectual to a tragic and ironic disease is really heartbreaking, and her devoted, less brilliant husband? Oh, yeah, uh, he was swell too.

I guess this movie really bothered me because at the time I was in graduate school and the leading philosopher in our department was a brilliant woman who was by far the biggest fish in our little pond. In order to hire her we had to agree to put her literature professor husband in the English department despite the fact that the English department really didn’t want him. I remember going to a faculty party and seeing him at her side, quiet, withdrawn, insecure at her amazing erudition and the fact that none of his colleagues truly respected him.

Yes, the death of Iris by Alzheimer’s is truly sad, but it seems to me that the film took John for granted in the same way that Iris did, which is something I find even sadder.

He was, as they both silently acknowledged, her intellectual inferior and it seemed to me that they were both in love with the same person: Iris.

Very well put, Jim, and exactly why I liked Jim Broadbent and his portrayal of Bayley. It was a simple dynamic and Broadbent gave it a lot of pathos (as did the actor playing his younger self).

I’m really glad he got the Oscar that year. It was the sort of performance – and character – that is often overlooked in favor of flashier stuff.

 -Tom

Agree with what’s been said here. I was really skeptical about whether or not I could stick with this movie given its subject matter, but everyone is so good in it (especially Broadbent, but also Dench and Winslet), and it wasn’t preachy or simplistic – undoubtedly one of the best films of that year.

I agree. Just like I’m glad Chris Cooper won this year because he has long been overlooked for some of his work in John Sayles’ films.