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Iris

Director:Sir Richard Eyre
Writers:Richard Eyre and Charles Wood
Miramax Films; R; 91 minutes
Release:12/01
Cast:Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet

Iris paints a moving portrait of a woman with Alzheimer's disease. The film contrasts the scandalous bohemian intellectual at Oxford with her elderly counterpart. Kate Winslet plays the young Iris, and venerable Judi Dench assumes the more complicated sunset role. The movie positions her husband, John Bayley, as an inferior, although when Jim Broadbent takes the role from Hugh Bonneville to portray the later years, the couple's relationship shifts as Iris finally loses her incandescent independence. Taken as such, the movie is a success. Excellent acting weds a thoughtful script.

However, the film is based on a real person: Iris Murdoch. She was a notoriously smart and pleasure-loving bisexual intellectual who wrote 28 novels along with heady works of philosophy, poetry, plays, and literary criticism. As any sort of biopic, Iris falls far short. Those wanting a deeper story should check her husband's Elegy for Iris that deals rather directly with her debilitating illness, or Peter Conradi's hefty new biography, Iris Murdoch: A Life.


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