March 19, 2008

Guilty by Association?

On a trip to the West Coast this past week, I attempted to watch Margot at the Wedding on the plane. Having enjoyed Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale, I was disappointed with his latest. Margot (Nicole Kidman) goes with her son Claude (with a mop of unfortunate, adolescent hair) to the family country home to attend her estranged sister Pauline's (Mr. Baumbach's wife Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding to Malcolm (Jack Black). The characters are unlikeable, the pace was plodding so I stopped trying to finish it. I debated whether to watch No Country for Old Men, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, or Longford. (I I had seen almost all the other choices, confirming that I have been spending most of my adult life watching movies.) I wisely chose the latter.

The HBO TV movie is about the former member of the House of Lords who embarked on a campaign to get Moors Murderess Myra Hindley paroled. Hindley (a scarily manipulative Samantha Morton) was convicted of raping, torturing and killing children in Manchester in the '60s, along with her lover Ian Brady (an even more chilling Andy Serkis). The Queen's Peter Morgan wrote it. It intersperses actual television clips with movie footage, even David Frost interviewing the controversial human rights campaigner. This movie deserves all the accolades, Emmy/Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations it received.

An almost unrecognizable and outstanding Jim Broadbent, stars as Lord Longford. He was a Labour Cabinet minister and social reformist whose deep religiosity and belief in Christian forgiveness drove him to Ms. Hindley and other prisoners, misfits and outcasts. The film begins with him in a radio station fielding listener phone calls while promoting his book on Catholic saints. The radio show is immediately inundated with calls from irate citizens blasting him for his involvement with the serial killer. The events unfold in flashback format. It is a very moving film and you feel for Lord Longford (later dubbed Lord Wrongford by tabloids) as he struggled with his personal beliefs and public opinion. Even his family is unsupportive, although his wife Elizabeth later comes around to his side. This fine film makes you wonder what you'd do and how far you'd go to stay true to your convictions. I was crying by the time Myra tells him that they'd only just missed the death sentence by a few weeks and they'd probably be all better off if they had been hanged. Longford tells her that only God has the right to take human life, and that if they had been hung, he would never have had the privilege of getting to know her. This film will haunt you.


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