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By Anne Brodie

Outrageously, hilariously potty-mouther Wicked Little Letters starring Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley looks at what can happen in the small English village of  Littlehampton in the 20s when a peculiar prank befouls the air. Prim Edith Swan (Colman), a deeply religious, conservative spinster still living with her parents in her fifth or sixth decade receives profanity-crammed anonymous notes in the post; the insults are brilliantly imaginative using every English swear ever invented – and I suspect – some new ones, shocking her and her parents. We’re shocked and entertained.  Timothy Spall plays her sputtering, angry, and ineffectual father who eventually convinces her to go to the police. They suspect Rose (Buckley), the neighbour next door, a single mother of untidy appearance and foul-mouthed nature who lives, unmarried, with her Black lover.  She’s prone to showing her bum to the world as a statement of opinion.   Other village women start getting these blue notes and band together to ID the culprit with the help of Police Officer Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan); the post office and male police won’t help. Word spreads and Edith becomes a kind of pathetic local celebrity as she and her pals investigate, using among other devices, invisible ink. Who would do such a thing? One thing’s certain, everyone has a theory, but something’s not adding up. Pure escapist pleasure with strings of expletives you’ve never heard and may appreciate, eve memorise, in a jolly bit of fun! Theatres and TIFF Lightbox April 12.

Anna Paquin produced and stars in a quietly powerful film about a woman struggling for her life. She’s Ella, a recovering alcoholic whose father (British tough-guy actor Roy Winstone) supports her efforts and feels deep empathy for her on the loss of her two children. Ella’s ex is with someone else and they have full custody until she’s clean. A Bit Of Light directed by Stephen Moyer follows Ella’s struggles deals with grief, regret and extreme loneliness. Her frequent angry outbursts aimed at her father, also a recovering alcoholic are tough to watch, and she rails at the system and her husband his new partner. She’s barred from approaching the children and spends most of the day in playgrounds watching other peoples’ children. Although Ella is hard to like, she is easy to understand, she sees her life as ruined by the pain of her impossible situation; she’s given up hope. But she meets a shot at recovery named Max (Luca Hogan in a stunning debut performance) in the park, a precocious thirteen-year-old with an uncanny sense of empathy and wisdom. He doesn’t reveal much about himself but peppers her with extraordinary questions that get right to the heart of the matter. Her father warns her off their friendship he sees as dangerous but she won’t listen; finally, someone she can be herself with and who cares for her.  He opens up to say his parents don’t care about him, that they’re not there, and that she can’t come to meet them. The final chapter breaks everything open like a kick in the emotional stomach, and suggests something outside themselves. Wow. Based on Rebecca Callard’s play. In theatres and TVOD April 5.

The late Carol Doda says when she was 15 she had a vision – “I knew I’d be in the entertainment business … but what?”.  Well, she was and she turned it, and 60’s culture upside down. Marlo McKenzie and Jonathan Parker’s Carol Doda:  Topless At The Condor documents the life and boundary-crossing times of a loner, a woman who hid her past, and the fact that she’d had two children. In San Francisco’s notorious tenderloin district in 1964, she became the first woman in the US to dance topless, working at The Condor in North Beach, a happening, gangster-owned nightclub. She wore Rudi Gernreich’s monokini and created a firestorm,  dancing atop a white piano that floated down from the ceiling with her astride. But it worked and folks flocked to watch the new headliner.  Topless clubs were suddenly everywhere. She was a pioneer of the 60’s cultural revolution, largely unrecognised, but she did her bit on her own terms.  Over time, she had her flat chest pumped up with silicone to gargantuan proportions and eventually dropped her drawers onstage. Doda was now internationally famous but according to friends, she was alone and lonely, working 12 performances a day, every day of the week; it was all she had. Disputes with the club owners and law enforcement, and legal challenges had her adrift at points, so she switched things up, adding snakes to the act, wrapping 120 pounds of them around herself. Harvard named her its Business Person of the Year, but as she aged Doda pivoted to non-touch backroom encounters in specialised nightclubs.  Mackenzie and Parker’s portrait is painted with great empathy and interviews with contemporaries proved that she was indeed loved.  Doda died in 2015 from complications from silicone.  Co-produced by Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. In theatres.

Now that Britain’s Prince Andrew has faded into the sunset, no more an official Royal, he’s long gone from headlines and our thoughts. Netflix revives him and the Big Ruinous Sex Scandal in Scoop. The main draw for North Americans, aside from more info about Jeffrey Epstein, the late sex trafficker of teenage girls and Andrew’s close friend, is the chance to watch the multi-talented Gillian Anderson and Billie Puper knock it out of the park. Scoop follows BBC Newsnight booking producer Sam McAlister (Billie Piper) as she chases the impossible, an interview with Andrew (Rufus Sewell) nine years after he was removed, as Epstein’s frequent houseguest and likely client.  Keeley Hawes plays Andrew’s aide, Amanda Thirsk,  who finesses Andrew into giving the interview without seeming to do so; her “ladylike” carriage, half smile, and retiring demeanour work in her favour. (The late Queen fired her after the interview aired.) Anderson plays news anchor Emily Maitlis (born in Hamilton, ON) who, thanks to McAlister’s brilliant high-stakes negotiations, fronts the interview. She’s an old-school pro who gets the job done.  But the hero of the piece is McAlister whose intense focus is backed up by remarkable instinct, native knowledge of human behaviour, and furious drive. The interview, that McAlister landed, by doggedly chasing it for a year, was pure dynamite. Andrew looked bad. A cautionary note and general rule of being a successful human being – it’s nice to get credit, but it’s nicer to give credit where credit is due. She got none. McAlister says she was “invisible” never getting credit for the “get”. A cautionary note and general rule of being a success – it’s nice to get credit, but it’s nicer to give credit where credit is due. Interesting Andrew tidbits – in the movie at least – he had dozens of teddy bears laid out on his bed – in very specific order. And he’d had Epstein partner Ghislaine Maxwell as his guest at Sandringham, a Royal Palace, for a shooting weekend.  Yikes.  

A heart-wrenching series about corporate greed, lies, and conspiracy based on real-life events in the UK that left postmasters ruined, financially, and mentally, some dead by their own hand. That’s no exaggeration. Mr. Bates Vs The Post Office on PBS Masterpiece starting April 7 stars Toby Jones as Alan Bates, a village subpostmaster for the British Post Office service, who was devastated when he found he owed thousands of pounds found missing from his accounts. Contractually he was to make up any shortfall, an impossibility given his wages and the fact that he’d done nothing wrong. He’s fired and leaves the area but launches his own investigation, with boxes of documents he kept that prove his innocence. Another subpostmaster (Monica Dolan) finds herself in the same situation; her shortfall doubles whenever she opens the books. Another postmaster (Will Mellor- Corrie’s evil Harvey) has documented 91 calls to the IT company and the post office with no luck; he’s in deep debt and suicidal. Dozens of postmasters come forward and with the help of journalists and MP Arbuthnot, and force the companies to pay attention. Word has it that if they lose a lawsuit, they appeal and appeal until the complainant goes away. The RL case is considered “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history” and James Strong’s mini-series does the victims right in what feels like a solid thriller. And shames those companies and their executives who took part in the heartless conspiracy, which apparently isn’t over.

Colin Farrell’s a dark Byronic hero, a night flyer and brilliant analyst of human behaviour in Sugar is on Apple TV+ now. It’s as noir as it gets, our moral but expedient hero charged with finding a lost heiress, whose empathy and experience colour his every effort.  He weighs moral options, as noir heroes do, mired in the darkness of urban life in elite wealthy circles and the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. He’s John Sugar, tasked with locating the missing granddaughter of film mogul Jonathan Siegel (James Cromwell) whose family is shredding at the seams. We learn incidentally that Sugar speaks multiple languages which helps him get to the heart of local gangs and suspect individuals from around the world; he’s a high-functioning human being, using his unique qualities for the greater good, beyond the scope of individual investigations. His body processes alcohol 50 x faster than normal so he’s never drunk, a good cover for certain eventualities. His booker, friend and confidante Ruby (Kirby) provides grounding normality that keeps him tethered to and believing in goodness and love. Sugar stands out as a fascinating character, created by Jonathan Siegel, and he’s also a riddle wrapped in an enigma.  I hope he sticks around awhile. Perfect role for Farrell.

TCM‘s terrific 13-part series Two for One examines the social, emotional and artistic impact of the forgotten double feature, each episode programmed by a renowned filmmaker or creator. ” history, artform and allure of the double feature, a staple of moviegoing for decades. Programmers include Martin Scorsese, Steven Speilberg, Olivia Wilde, Ethan Hawke and Spike Lee who join host Ben Mankiewicz with double bills meaningful to them. Saturday nights.



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