Monday, November 21, 2011

How About You

I know it isn't even Thanksgiving yet in the US, but The Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge begins today, and I couldn't wait another minute to write about this movie for the Fa La La La Films section of the challenge. I watched How About You on Netflix Instant a week ago. It is a wonderful, uplifting, and unique film about life in a home for older people.

The movie opens with Bobby Darin's version of the old standard, How About You. This is one of my favorite songs and it is a fun one because singers often change the lyrics; for example, 'I'm mad about good books; can't get my fill' is followed variously by:
and James Durante's looks, they give me a thrill
and Franklin Roosevelt's looks, they give me a thrill
In Bobby Darin's version he says, 'Mr. Kennedy's looks' and later 'Mrs. Darin's looks'. I so wish there were a video of him singing it, but you may listen to his version here. The song is on his album, Love Swings which you may buy (as I did) at iTunes for a penny under ten dollars - a great bargain!

How About You is based on Maeve Binchy's story The Hard Core, from her collection called This Year It Will Be Different, which I wrote about last December. I read it again after seeing the movie and though there were several changes, the heart of the story remains. The movie in fact really brings the story and the characters to life. Kate, played by Orla Brady runs a home in Ireland for older people, a residential home with a nurse on the premises. It is quickly failing because of four disagreeable rascals who drive away people who want to live there, and the employees who work there. One of the four is so bad she has been banned from all other elder facilities. These four would be labeled enfants terribles if they were younger! They argue, they criticize, they mock, they demand. And they are played by four of the greatest actors around:

Joss Ackland,

Imelda Staunton and Brenda Fricker,

and Vanessa Redgrave.

Oh, Vanessa. In her later years, she seems even more beautiful, more luminous than when she was young. In Letters To Juliet, she played a romantic heroine who reconnects with an old lover, who was her old lover in real life, and with whom she has recently gotten back together - Franco Nero. If you are interested, there is a nice interview with them.

In How About You the younger sister Ellie, played by Hayley Atwell has left college because she wants to go around the world with friends and her boyfriend. She has given up her apartment to save money, and so, a bit reluctantly and because she is quite desperate for help, Kate takes her on. She moves in and does cleaning and serving duties. Just before Christmas their mother has a stroke and Kate must go be with her. Though it is against regulations she leaves Ellie solely in charge. All the residents, the nurse, and staff have gone off for the holidays, leaving the four who have no place to go. And that is probably enough said. I want you to be able to discover and experience the joy of this film on your own, as I did.

There may be poignancy in stories of older people but poignant is not the same as tragic. Tragic is the death of a young person. The death of an older person is normal, the way it should be. In the movie, there is one dying woman who looks back at her life and says it was wonderful. She loved her late husband, and with a twinkle in her eye says she hopes to see him again.

Joan O'Hara,

who played the dying woman actually died the same year the film was released.

How About You offers surprises rather than stereotypes, joy rather than sorrow, and new beginnings rather than staying the same. I really loved this movie, and it was a perfect way to begin my holiday viewing.


  1. The fact that Vanessa Redgrave is in it would sell me on this even if I hadn't liked the trailer so much. We'll watch this one for sure - two crochety old people watching four other crochety old people - should be fun! :)

  2. Indeed, a great way to start off the Christmas Spirit Challenge. Between your words and pictures and the video, I'm persuaded to see this one. It looks charming but with some good heart.

  3. I laughed right out loud when I read your words, Barbara! Maybe by the end of the movie, you'll feel as cheery as they do. :<) I do think you'll love it!
    And if you haven't seen Letters to Juliet, you ought to give it a try. And have you seen VR in Mrs. Dalloway? Honestly, she is THE best.

  4. Please come back and tell me how you liked it (even if you didn't!) after you've seen the movie, Margot. I just loved it.

  5. Thank you, Nan, for describing the movie so well without giving so much away that nobody needs to watch it anymore :-)
    I only just realized where I've seen Imelda Staunton before: she played the horrible Professor Umbridge in one of the Harry Potter movies.

  6. Librarian, I've only seen part of one HP, and read only one book. The phenomenon passed me by. :<) IS is also in Peter's Friends, one of my favorite movies, with a terrific cast and story. And she's the star of one I haven't seen called Vera Drake.

  7. Joan O'Hara, who played the dying woman actually died the same year the film was released.
    Art and life blurring boundaries.

    I love strong, thoughtful characterizations so I'll look into this one and the story on which it's based; thanks for recommending it. I've also added Maeve Binchy's collection of short stories, Irish Girls About Town, to my list of books to read.

  8. HKatz, I've wondered if she knew she was dying when she played the role. She was just so amazing, and seemed so real.
    I shall get the Irish Girls About Town. I read a lot of MB at the end of 2010 and then this year, and I just want to read more!

  9. Love the short story The Hard Core, just read it two nights ago. I will be watching this film soon!
    Thanks for the review :)

  10. I have instant Netflix so this one is going on the list to watch this weekend!!

  11. Niki, it was even better than the story, I thought.

    Staci, it is a perfect movie to end the Thanksgiving season and begin the Christmas season.

  12. I am putting this on my Netflix queue instantly. Letters to Juliet too. You always have the best suggestions. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

  13. What a very, very nice thing to say, Pat! I think you'll like both movies. And best wishes to you!

  14. I watched this movie last winter, really great! :))))

  15. Watched this on Netflix streaming last night after reading your blog entry. I enjoyed it immensely! I thought it was really great the way the holidays brought out the best in everyone. And Vanessa Redgrave was wonderful. I loved the scene where she was singing "How About You" in the pub! Thanks for the recommendation, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. Jill, I am so, so pleased that you watched it, and enjoyed it. That was such a nice scene. I liked it, too, when Vanessa talked about being of the Twiggy generation rather than the puffy lips one! (as am I, and so happy to be).

  17. It's a lovely little film with heart, a real charmer. Happy to know you've not only discovered it, but are spreading the word about it!

    Happy US Thanksgiving to you and your family and beasts!

  18. This looks marvelous. I've add it to my queue. And I agree about VR. I loved Mrs. Dalloway. Time to rent that again.

    Thanks, Nan!

  19. Perfectly eloquent review have worded it so well and stated exactly how I felt while watching the movie.
    Love this line:
    There may be poignancy in stories of older people but poignant is not the same as tragic...
    and your conclusion:
    How About You offers surprises rather than stereotypes, joy rather than sorrow, and new beginnings rather than staying the same. I really loved this movie, and it was a perfect way to begin my holiday viewing.

    Thanks for an articulate review!

  20. Thanks, Margaret, and the same to you. It is such a wonderful film.

    Les, you will like this a lot better than you did Another Year, I promise. :<)

    Peggy, wasn't it just so great?!

    Joanne, wow, I thank you for such kind words.

  21. I haven't heard of this movie. I'm definitely going to look it up on Netflix. I love Vanessa Redgrave and Hayley Atwell. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Michelle, it was new to me this year, and I'm so happy to have seen it. I'm actually going to buy the dvd.


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