Sunday, February 19, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 25: Enchanted April

Movie: Enchanted April
Year: 1993

Nominations: Best Supporting Actress - Joan Plowright, Best Adapted Screenplay - Peter Barnes, Best Costumes
Wins/Snubs: Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, Howard's End, and Dracula took the above awards.  Very odd year for nominations and winners -  it was Unforgiven or Howard's End for many awards, with quite a few others that have stood the test of time (A River Runs Through It, Scent of a Woman, A Few Good Men).  

Enchanted April is the story of 2 women in 1920s London - Lottie (Josie Lawrence) and Rose (Miranda Richardson).  The first is in love with, but afraid of, her husband (Alfred Molina).  The second is in a lonely marriage, seemingly of convenience, to a writer (Jim Broadbent).  They decide to escape for the month of April and rent a castle in Italy.  To defray the costs, they find 2 other women to join them - Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) and Caroline (Polly Walker).  Mrs. Fisher is just a stuffy old prim lady who wants a chance to sit and read.  Caroline is high society and wants a "rest cure" which seems to be doing nothing and avoiding social situations.  After they've been in Italy for a few days, they realize you can't actually escape your life and you have to acknowledge it.  Lottie invites her husband to visit - he's excited because as a financial manager, there are lots of prospects for business among the ladies.  Rose's husband, in his career has befriended Caroline, and comes to see her, which Rose doesn't figure out and it saves their marriage (she thinks he does actually love her, and he pretends and all is well).  The women decide to stay friends.  And Italy is beautiful.
This movie doesn't rely much on plot - a few simple devices give the women enough character to have conversations.  The rest is based on getting away and seeing Italy.  Mike Newell directed this just before Four Weddings and a Funeral which was also nominated for Oscars.  It's an odd set of neuroses combined into one house - there is the woman who loves her husband but hates being bossed around by him.  There's a woman who seems to be in a loveless marriage to a man who uses his writer alter-ego to be a part of society.  Then there's a lonely older woman who is overly proper, but insanely rude (that's how Plowright got her nomination - she's funny and rude).  Then there's a spoiled woman who doesn't want to be part of society but can't avoid it.  The movie seems to be trying to show a feminist stream of women finding independence and friendship, but it seems dated in a way I have trouble articulating - is it possible to have dated opinions about 1920s feminism?  Of course it is, but I don't know enough to comment well, that's just how it felt to me.  An odd flick that deserved the costume nomination, and only in the odd year of 1993 would Plowright have been nominated.     

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