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It is easy to see that Finney was classically trained, and that his booming stage voice must have rung through many a theater. The snatches of Shakespeare that we do see are great fun, as is the byplay between the old man who can do them in his sleep and even the most humble members of the crew, who by now know all the cues. But mainly this is the story of two men, one an artist who is used to taking what he needs from those around him, and the other who gives his life over to that man, and to some idea of carrying on the great work. This is not a happy film, but it is a great one.
The fop and the falling star share brilliantly-acted interactions that are alternately infuriating and touching. With well-timed direction, a great screenplay, and a sturdy plot, this film won 5 Oscar nominations but --amazingly-- no Oscars.
That doesn't mean this incipient classic should be overlooked. A fine addition to any DVD library, and one that may not "stay in print;" Order THE DRESSER now--you won't be disappointed!
On one level, it is a film, possibly the best film about the meaning of theater. An aging and once great Shakespearean actor is reduced to playing second rate venues in the provinces when all the good actors are off to war against the Nazis. The year is 1940...the fate of the war is uncertain. Theaters and homes are being bombed. And yet, "Sir" the lead actor continues on playing the major roles of the Shakespeare plays...having never missed giving a performance.
He is now exhausted, physically and emotionally. He is seriously ill..near senilty. And yet - like the soldiers faced with another dreary, impossible day...he goes on. But it is all made possible now by his dresser, his confidante, his caretaker, his friend, and most importantly, his intimate.
And more than anything else, this is a film about intimacy. It is quite clear that Norman (brilliantly played by Tom Courtenay) has a homosexual crush on his 'Sir." But more than that, they really are a pair, feeding and working off each other...Sir is an outstanding actor because his dresser has the skill, reverance, and love to make it happen. In a sense they perform - together.Read more ›
As the playwright Ronald Harwood has repeatedly said, the play (and film) are based on his own experiences dressing the great, legendary, barnstorming actor Donald Wolfit, who made relatively few film appearances but whose voice was powerful enough to rattle the front-of-house chandeliers. So this is a loving and poignant elegy to a particular era and a particular style of acting that both have passsed from view. This is neither good nor bad, it's just the way things are; cyclical and ever-renewing, because tastes change and interpretations of the classic texts shift from generation to generation. However... experience tells me that when some of today's British theatrical Knights are booming their way through Shakespeare and Chekhov, the backstage corridors at the National Theatre may yet echo with passions and tensions and the creak of over-stretched egos that would sound very familiar to Sir Donald Wolfit's still-growling spectre.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Really good Albert Finney movie that wasn't available on Netflix.Published 27 days ago by Jane Querantes
Loved this small chamber piece of a play. It suggested the roaming Rep companies and that whole world of putting on repertory theatre, and all the people, craftsmen, acting... Read morePublished 2 months ago by technoguy
Historically wonderous performances by some of the most distinguished actors from the world's most accomplished dramatic tradition: the English stage. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Gary H. Beachum
Albert Finney is a fine actor as is Tom Courtenay They, carry the movie which is, to me, an attempt at Shakespeare.Published 5 months ago by Elizabeth
Those who enjoy watching fine actors portray unusual and interesting characters should enjoy "The Dresser". Read morePublished 8 months ago by Charles Shores
Great film about life and relationships backstage in a British Shakespeare company during WWII. Outstanding performances from the leads.Published 13 months ago by Katie P