There is nothing like a Dame… well, yes: four of them. Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Eileen Atkins and Dame Joan Plowright meet from time to time and this time they have allowed the cameras in this friendship meeting, a friendship that goes back more than half a century.
Had Roger Michell directed a movie as easy as this one before? The director of Notting Hill and the poorly received but well-done My Cousin Rachel had to give some indication to his four actresses, sit down and watch them talk, laugh and cry, just a little bit. This is because these four Dames are four of the most acclaimed actresses on the international scene. Friends for decades with Oscars, Baftas and Oliviers on the shelves of theirs homes (Plowright, of course, was married to the man who gave his name to the Olivier Theater awards, actor Laurence Olivier), this group of National Treasures are synonym of laughs and reminiscences. And the best thing is that they do it how any other godmother would do, without bumps or scripts or “you are wonderful, my dear.”
Michell shot the film in the beautiful country house in Sussex that Plowright bought with Laurence Olivier. I imagine that the choice of the place was for the age of Plowright —being 88, she is the oldest of the four years— and because her vision has been much less than in recent years. In fact, Dame Dench, who also has problems with her eyes, asks in a moment: “Between all, do we have three eyes?”.
There are lot of laughs. I loved two moments: when Roger asked them if the they would work forever, the three answered yes, but the good scripts never arrive to them because they are first offered to Dame Judi, in fact, Plowright says that his agent one recommended her to “look around for a nice little cameo that Judi Dench hasn’t got her paws on”. The second one is the reaction of Dame Maggie, less than enthusiastic, to reach international fame thanks to her interpretation of the Countess of Dowager in Downton Abbey (which she has not had time to watch, “I won’t last long enough to watch the damn thing”, Dench is less morbid, saying she has not planned his funeral “because I will not die!” I hope none of they do it, to be honest). It is also a matter of laughing when Dame Smith relates when she congratulated Dame Dench for the title of Dame “It doesn’t make any difference, you can still swear”. Swearing, in fact, is one of the favorite things of Dame Dench, and it seems that when she does it she is as good as when she plays M. “Fuck off!!!!!” she says when Roger asks them to talk about getting older, and there are also images of a young Dench shouting “brutally stuck coppers” and spitting on a policeman’s face in Z Cars (BBC). But there are also tears when they discuss love and loss.
Nothing Like a Dame is sincere, funny, caustic, irreverent, endearing and absolutely fantastic.
Nothing Like a Dame will available on BBC iPlayer for a limited time from June 2nd.