Some­thing less than wicked this way comes

Noth­ing Like a Dame dis­ap­points with its la­dy­like de­meanour

The Province - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­[email protected]­media.com twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

It sounds like a win­ning pitch: Four cel­e­brated English ac­tresses, each a Dame Com­man­der of the Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire, gather to dis­cuss their long, sto­ried ca­reers. Ap­par­ently it’s some­thing they do on a reg­u­lar ba­sis any­way; this time, di­rec­tor Roger Michell and his cam­era were al­lowed to sit in.

But af­ter it be­comes clear that Mag­gie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright aren’t go­ing to form a crime syn­di­cate or knock over a bank, it be­comes equally clear that they aren’t go­ing to give up the goods on their col­leagues, friends or lovers. And Michell isn’t push­ing; we can hear his voice off cam­era, lob­bing the soft­est of ques­tions.

Even at that, there’s some fun to be had. Dench notes at one point that she’s never known an An­thony who didn’t com­plain about his role; I thought she meant Hop­kins, Quayle, etc., but she’s ac­tu­ally talk­ing about Shake­speare’s An­thony and Cleopa­tra, which the women agree is a bet­ter play for the fe­male lead than the male.

Smith con­fesses she’s never watched Down­ton Abbey, though she was given a box set by the pro­duc­ers. Plowright gets a dig at her friend when she re­calls her Amer­i­can agent telling her: “We’ll look for a nice lit­tle cameo that Judi Dench doesn’t have her paws on yet.” And Atkins re­calls over­hear­ing a teacher say­ing she wasn’t pretty enough to act, and an ac­tor who was ad­vis­ing him re­spond: “No ... but she’s sexy.”

The archival footage is won­der­ful; th­ese women have all been work­ing since the ’50s, and we get to see them grow up in fast mo­tion, first on stage and then on screen. But it would have been nice to have Michell give them more pointed queries than: “What was it like work­ing with your hus­bands?” Plowright was mar­ried to Olivier, for heaven’s sake! And all we get back is that it was “tricky.”

— MARK JOHN­SON

Mag­gie Smith, Joan Plowright, Eileen Atkins and Judi Dench ap­pear to­gether in Noth­ing Like a Dame. Un­for­tu­nately, they don’t get up to much mischief, choos­ing to be cir­cum­spect in their com­ments.

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