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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Iris

Starring: Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent
Director: Richard Eyre
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: December 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Penelope Wilton, Samuel West, Juliet Aubrey, Eleanor Bron

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

Richard Eyre's IRIS tells a true story, both devastating and joyous, about the life and decline of Iris Murdoch, the acclaimed English novelist and philosopher. "Nothing matters except loving what is good," she tells us in a thought that sums up her vision of the world. This great intellect is struck down by Alzheimer's, eventually rendering her a fan of Teletubbies and a danger to herself. But, before we get to the tragic conclusion, we celebrate her life using seamless editing that cuts back and forth between Iris as a young novelist and as an older, famous writer. We also witness the love and support of her husband, John Bayley, a scholar and a professor who was happy just to bask in her glow.

The film's exquisite casting includes Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville as the younger Iris and John and Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent as the older pair. Deservingly so, all, except Bonneville, are nominated for Academy Awards. Each of the four gives flawless performances. Bonneville looks so much like Broadbent that you'll swear that he must Broadbent's son.

Iris possessed not only a great mind but also a very free spirit. An unflappable extrovert, she couldn't be fazed even by a tumble down the stairs at a fancy dress party. She just bursts into giggles when she reaches the bottom. In contrast, John, who acts like a kid who is accidentally let free in a candy shop, is an awkward stutterer. He can hardly believe that she likes him. The chemistry between the actors at both ages is touching and honest. The film also contains more floating naked breasts than in a Playboy video. In order to express her freedom, the director keeps cutting back to underwater sequences of Winslet. It seems that, all their lives, Iris and John loved nothing better than swimming in the local river.

IRIS does one of the best jobs I've seen of presenting the whole of one's life, while focusing on only two portions of it. The film's incredible last act spoke to me directly as if it weren't a movie at all but loved ones whom I was witnessing going through the emotional upheaval of Alzheimer's. By the end, I was an emotional wreck.

IRIS runs 1:30. It is rated R for "sexuality/nudity and some language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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