Joe Hilde­brand

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Evan Williams

WHICH Hol­ly­wood com­edy has a cast of fe­male char­ac­ters called M’Lynn Ea­ten­ton, Truvy Jones, Ouiser Boudreaux, An­nelle Dupuy Desoto, Clairee Belcher and Shelby Ea­ten­ton Latcherie? Yes, ma’am, it’s Steel Mag­no­lias (Tues­day, 7.30pm, 7Two), the story of six south­ern women whose lives in­ter­sect in a beauty par­lour in a small Louisiana town. The women are played, re­spec­tively, by Sally Field, Dolly Par­ton, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Han­nah, Olympia Dukakis and Ju­lia Roberts, and the en­sem­ble cast is gen­er­ally bet­ter than the script. But direc­tor Her­bert Ross (work­ing from a screen­play by Robert Har­ling, based on his play) de­liv­ers a fine, sudsy mix­ture of gos­sip­ing, bick­er­ing, has­sling and cop­ing — the kind of pre-fem­i­nist com­edy in which women were as­sumed to in­habit a world of ex­clu­sively fe­male con­cerns, some­how di­vorced from the wider world of men. I rec­om­mend that view­ers fol­low it, if they can, with an­other look at The Help, last year’s fine film about the lives of south­ern women in the 1960s.

Ju­lia Roberts’ fans can also see her in Step­mom (Tues­day, 7pm, 7Two), about the ef­forts of ri­val women to cap­ture the hearts of two chil­dren from a bro­ken mar­riage. The wellto-do sub­ur­ban Har­risons are split­ting up. Luke (Ed Har­ris) has fallen for Is­abel (Roberts), a hot­shot pho­tog­ra­pher in an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, and Su­san Saran­don is the hard-work­ing full­time mum left to look af­ter the kids. Direc­tor Chris Colum­bus gives us an ac­com­plished tear­jerker, a per­cep­tive and of­ten sub­tle ex­plo­ration of mod­ern par­ent­hood. The chil­dren — an imp­ish lit­tle fel­low called Ben and the re­sent­ful teenage An­nie — are bril­liantly good.

Worth see­ing an­other time is Funny Girl (Sun­day, 3.30pm, Gem), the 1968 biopic of ris­ing Ziegfeld Fol­lies star Fanny Brice, a role that won Bar­bra Streisand an Academy Award. Omar Sharif as her hus­band Nick Arn­stein wasn’t even nom­i­nated. Direc­tor Wil­liam Wyler also made the 1939 ver­sion of Wuther­ing Heights star­ring Lau­rence Olivier, but this was his only mu­si­cal and it gave us songs such as Don’t Rain on My Pa­rade and Sec­ond Hand Rose.

Down­fall (Sun­day, 9.45pm, SBS One) is Oliver Hirsch­biegel’s grip­ping ac­count of Hitler’s last days in his Ber­lin bunker. The story has been told be­fore — no­tably in a 1981 tele­vi­sion film with An­thony Hop­kins and in G. W. Pabst’s 1956 film The Last Act — but this is surely the de­fin­i­tive ver­sion. It is based partly on the rem­i­nis­cences of Traudl Junge, Hitler’s sec­re­tary, who died in 2002, two years be­fore the film’s re­lease. Junge, played by Alexan­dra Maria Lara, is an un­re­pen­tant Nazi to the end. But the film be­longs to Bruno Ganz for his por­trayal of the para­noid mega­lo­ma­niac who blames ev­ery­one but him­self for Ger­many’s col­lapse while his clos­est acolytes party in the bunker and sol­diers drink them­selves into obliv­ion. Down­fall has in­spired a mil­lion in­ter­net par­o­dies (much, I would imag­ine, to the film­mak­ers dis­may.), but it’s a great and hor­ri­fy­ing film.

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