by Brad Nelson 5/12/14
I was battling internally with whether to do a full-blown review of Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. The problem is, any review properly belongs not under “movie review” but “sociological study.” This film reminds me of many of Mr. Kung’s objections to the Inspector Gently episode, The Lost Child, which he reviewed.
As a movie, Philomena is entertaining enough. I’m one of those people who enjoyed Dench in As Time Goes By with Geoffrey Palmer where too old lovers lose track of each other and meet decades later and renew their friendship. But I think Dench is otherwise overrated and totally out of place in the Bond films. In Philomena, I found her acting to be adequate for the first half or so. And then she appeared to be miming the part, as if she were just reading lines, which suits the nature of this film which is apparently beyond “gross exaggeration” and fits the bill more as an outright and premeditated lie — by both the actors and the producers.
The story is apparently so “loosely based on a real story” as to render it abjectly fraudulent. There is a short pdf document you can download called Debunking Philomena by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. He compares the movie to what is apparently actual history.
And there is often no similarity between the two. For instance, there is a scene at the very end where the “bad” Sister Hildegarde has the final horns painted on her head by having villainous words stuffed into her mouth while the holier-than-thou ex-BBC journalist (played by Steve Coogan) goes in for a little moral preening. But by then, in real life (otherwise known to conservatives as “reality”), Sister Hildegarde was dead and Dench and the journalist never could have met her in order to play out this scene. The only point of the scene is therefore to paint the Catholic nuns as fundamentalist religious kooks and the “secular” ex-BBC journalist as the enlightened guy who glows with the light of self-righteous better-than-thou.
The Church is Snidely Whiplash. That’s all you need to know about the moral and intellectual content of this movie (such as it is) which doesn’t range far from the Left’s typical comic-book view of life. And I don’t by any means have my finger on the pulse of the entire history of the Catholic church’s (state-sponsered and requested) handling of abandoned babies and adoption in Ireland. But it’s a good guess that this movie is little more than yet another example of Leftist porn. It revels in bashing Catholics and Republicans. And it steps far out of its way to do so.
Philomena is obvious propaganda in the form of a feature film. And I must say, it’s obvious that this propaganda works on some if only because the obviousness of it is not seen by many. I won’t mention any names, but a friend of mine recommended this movie to me gleefully (telling me how many times he teared up). But all I could do was roll my eyes at most of this ham-fisted cultural-battery.
For a variety of reasons, Leftist porn is not particularly effective on me. I have not been intellectually and emotionally pre-programmed to want to see Catholics, Republicans, and nuns besmirched and belittled. It’s a bit disturbing that the propaganda of the Left has been so successful that someone can sit and watch such obvious Leftist porn and shed a tear — over the movie, not the dismantling of Western Civilization (as I at least figuratively did).
But if you can get past the obvious malicious fraudulence, the movie itself is entertaining enough. It’s about a woman (Dench) who in her youth gave up her baby to a convent (aka “the evil, baby-stealing, baby-selling nuns who also engage in slave labor”). The years pass, and she wonders whatever happened to the child. Her daughter tells an out-of-work journalist (played by Steve Coogan) of this story and he becomes interested and agrees to help Dench find her lost son in exchange for being able to publish the story.
Eventually both Dench and the journalist go to America where they track down the real story (such as “real” has any meaning in this movie). And if you don’t want any spoilers, then stop reading now. But I suspect that it will not matter. What they find out was that her son was dead but that he had quite a career (wait for it) as chief legal counsel for the Republican Party under Reagan. And (wait for it again) he was a closet homosexual who died from AIDS.
The malicious (there is no other word for this kind of evil packed into a movie) producers of this film bash the Catholic nuns every chance they get. And where the propaganda becomes most effective is that there is a feigned even-handedness about the portrayal of these nuns. Occasionally Dench is used as the “good cop” — saying a few good things about the nuns — as opposed to Coogan’s “bad cop.” But the “good cop” part of it is obviously simply meant for you to lower your defenses and to thus assume that the harsh things told by the “bad cop” in this movie are true, when it is very probable that they are all lies. As Bill Donohue points out in his rebuttal to this film, it will be a long time until they make a movie that slanders Islam.
This movie is watchable both as a piece of cultural anthropology — in terms of watching how Leftist propaganda is fed to a wide audience — and as entertainment. The acting is generally good, as is the direction and other production values. And you can’t help but get wrapped up somewhat in the story, made easier if you just treat it as a complete work of fiction, which it probably is.
You can think of this film as a sort of litmus test. If you’re crying by the end of it, you can be sure you’ve been psychologically programmed to some extent by the Left. If you eye-roll at it (as I did), you’re StubbornThings material. • (1509 views)