One of the most talked about films at Oscar time was also one of the least known films of 2001. Even by March of 2002, few people had heard of, seen, or knew anything about Iris, a drama starring the excellent talent of Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent and Kate Winslet.
Iris tells the true story of novelist Iris Murdoch, a woman who was brilliant in her prime but in her later years developed Alzheimer's, becoming incapable to do even the simplest of things. Through the ages she is helped by her husband John Bayley - upon who's memoirs this movie is based - who is with her until the end. Both Dench and Winslet, some of the most talented actresses in the game today, star as Iris, and Broadbent, another fine actor who received many awards for his portrayal here, gets the role of John. All three actors are fabulous; unfortunately, they exceed the film's quality.
Iris is not a bad movie; it is simply a normal movie, without any real purpose and anything of interest. It is frankly somewhat boring, and when it came to close, I really didn't feel as though I had gained any new knowledge of this woman. In fact, I don't know what she wrote, when she was born, or anything of the nature, and despite that Iris is a character film, I don't know what she was like, either. Kate Winslet's portion of Iris is given much less time than Dench's - maybe because Dench's portrayal of a woman who is no longer all there is downright mesmerizing - but it is in Winslet's years that we are able to see what this woman was really like. At the end of Iris, the only thing I know about her is that she died nearly mindless; no scholar would want to be remembered like that. She would want to be remembered for her achievements in life, for what she did throughout her many wonderful years · not for her final few, where she couldn't even understand the concept of a door.
Again, Dench is wonderful, but it is Broadbent that steals the show. The movie is based on Bayley's memoirs, so it does make sense that the deepest character in the film is his; Broadbent is stupendous. He is caring and tolerant, yet not always; though I have never really been around a mentally impaired person for long periods of time, I know - I just know - that what Broadbent portrays is accurate.
Iris is not a very exciting nor intriguing film, but it's acting is top notch. Without the acting talent, the movie would be nothing; of course, that could be said about so many movies. It is worth seeing, if only for the performances within.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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