Philomena is phenomenal

If you’re old like me, you might remember how movie critics Siskel and Ebert used to give a film either a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” at the end of their TV show “At the Movies.” But for me, instead of my thumb indicating whether a movie is worth watching, it’s my head. You see, if we pop in a DVD or start a movie on Netflix on a Friday night and I manage to stay awake for the entire movie, so that I don’t look like a bobble head, with my head bouncing off my chest until I finally just give into the consuming desire to sleep, that’s a really good movie, worthy of a “heads up.”

I hope fellow blogger Gil Mansergh will forgive me for stepping into his bailiwick this week, but let me give you an example.

A couple of weeks ago we watched the compelling documentary, “The Rape of Europa” which tells the story of Europe’s art treasures during WWII and the Third Reich. Part world history and part art history, it’s an amazing story covering 12 years and seven countries that left me in awe of the brave people who worked to save and rescue hundreds of years of some of the finest pieces of art in Western Culture.  It was definitely a “heads up” movie.

Because the documentary included the intriguing story of the Monuments Men, we thought we would defy the overwhelming number of green splats on Rotten Tomatoes (only 32% of critics liked it) and rent the recent George Clooney directed movie. “The Monuments Men” looked promising because it has a great cast; in addition to Clooney, it stars Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and John Goodman, plus a bunch of other good actors. But this movie was truly awful. Clooney couldn’t decide if he was making “Hogan’s Heros” or “The Magnificent Seven” or “Danny Ocean meets Hermann Goering.” I was heads down and soundly asleep in 10 minutes and Steve had the DVD back in the Netflix envelope in 15 minutes.

However, fearing that “The Monuments Men” might be a real turkey – which it was, Steve had also ordered “Philomena” on Netflix as a backup. After watching it Friday night, I kept thinking about the beautiful pacing of the story, the excellent performances of Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the dialogue that was always true to character, the touches of humor, the pain that Philomena carried for 50 years wondering about what had happened to her son, and her solid, persevering faith throughout it all. You know a movie is really good when it stays with you into the next day. Needless to say, I loved the movie; not a moment of drowsiness in its entire 98 minutes.

My review? “Philomena” gets a heads up, way up.

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