An established comic actor wants to tackle meatier parts, but no one makes him an offer. What can he do? Steve Coogan found the answer: Co-write the script and produce the movie yourself.
An established comic actor wants to tackle meatier parts, but no one makes him an offer.
What can he do?
Steve Coogan found the answer: Co-write the script and produce the movie yourself.
Philomena, opening on Wednesday in theaters, provides a fact-based drama about the elderly title character (Judi Dench), seeking the son she was forced to give up for adoption a half-century earlier.
Aiding her in the quest is Martin Sixsmith (Coogan), a former journalist who was recently ousted from his job as a political spin doctor.
Although he hates the type of “human interest” story that her crusade could produce, he pitches it to a London magazine editor and soon becomes fully immersed.
The search begins at the Roman Catholic convent in Ireland where Philomena was consigned as a teenager after a fling left her pregnant.
Flashbacks fill in the painful memories she has kept to herself for decades — of how her son was born in 1952, then sent overseas as a 4-year-old with adoptive parents.
Getting no satisfaction at the convent, Martin follows other leads — and soon the pair is in the United States, narrowing the search.
Coogan and Dench make a suitably mismatched couple.
His journalist is an avowed atheist who is allergic to sentiment and pushy when he doesn’t get answers.
Despite her experiences, Philomena remains a devout Catholic, pleasantly naive and bubbling with enthusiasm.
Director Stephen Frears (The Grifters, The Queen) makes the oil-and-water combination work, milking laughs out of Martin’s reactions to Philomena’s grand-mum style while subtly building the anger that erupts as details of the past are discovered.
Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope based the script on a book by the real Sixsmith. Because the twists of the story actually happened, the film doesn’t always go where the viewer might expect or hope.
Likewise, to personify the villains of the drama, the script oversimplifies a bygone social system that might have been more complicated than the filmmakers are willing to accept.
That might not matter to anyone who falls under the spell of Dench bustling through a character burdened by a lifetime of emotional scars, yet still full of cheer.