Thursday, July 6, 2017

Aisling Walsh's sweet and moving MAUDIE showcases Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke

Golden Globe Best Actress-winner and Oscar Supporting Actress-nominee Sally Hawkins tends to make major waves in small independent movies such as Happy Go Lucky,  Blue Jasmine and All Is Bright (among her more than 50 credits so far). She's doing it again in this year's MAUDIE, a Canadian film in which she gives such an outstanding performance -- different in a number of aspects from all else she's done and consequently sure to be overlooked by the Academy at awards time (just as Rebecca Hall's amazing turn as Christine was last year). Nevertheless, if there is a better performance by an actor or actress this year, TrustMovies will be very surprised.

As written by Sherry White and directed by Aisling Walsh (shown at right), Maudie tracks the adult life of an artist most Americans will not have heard: Maude Lewis. As motion pictures go, this one is a fairly typical biography that breaks no new ground style-wise and yet is consistently fascinating and compelling, thanks to Ms Hawkins, who captures the physicality and personality of the artist in a simply amazing manner. Maud suffered from rheumatoid arthritis as a child and never fully recovered. Consequently her ability to walk and do some other normal movements was impaired but not destroyed.

The manner in which Ms Hawkins (above and below) manages to convey the life -- physical and interior -- of this unusual woman, as well as her understanding and appreciation of art and how it arises from the world around her will more than likely have you thinking you're watching a documentary, so far as this amazing performance is concerned.

The smart way in which White and Walsh give us Maudie's back story -- quietly and in small doses -- allows us to learn about her in similar fashion as does the man she meets, works for and eventually marries: tiny moments that keep enlarging and enriching the character. As played by Ethan Hawke, below, who lately keeps giving one swell (but mostly unheralded) performance after another, this man, Everett Lewis, is by turns slow, angry, caring and strong. Though Hawke looks literally nothing like the tall, thin, and not particularly attractive real Everett Lewis, I  think it's unfair to hold the actor's good looks against him. He adds his talent -- together with some box-office draw -- to a movie that is certainly all the better for it.

Supporting characters are sparse and given not nearly the screen time of our twosome (and the art), but a few of them register strongly, all the same, in particular the more wealthy and sophisticated New York woman who first brings Maude's art to greater attention (Kari Matchett is excellent in this role). Also fine are Zachary Bennett and Gabrielle Rose as, respectively, Maude's money-grubbing brother and angry aunt.

The musical score by Michael Timmins is lovely, as is Guy Godfree's cinematography. The entire movie is handled with a light touch rather than an iron glove (this is particularly telling in the scene involving Maude's daughter), leaving the heavy work to Hawkins and Hawke -- both of whom come through as brilliantly as you could want. As befits a story about a folk artist, Maudie is a "folksy" film -- simple but never dumb; quiet, with a lot on its mind; and curt and staunch when necessary. It's not a great film, but it is a very, very good one. You'd be foolish to miss it.

From Sony Pictures Classics and running 116 minutes, after opening in New York City, Los Angeles and elsewhere in the past couple of weeks, Maudie moves to other major cities this week, opening here in South Florida in Miami at the Tower Theater, Fort Lauderdale at The Gateway, in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theater and Regal Shadowood, and at the Movies of Del Rey and Movies of Lake Worth. To see currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here and scroll down.

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