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Reviewed on 2008-11-05
Received[2.5]  out of 4 stars
GenreComedy / Drama
Poppy Cross (Sally Hawkins) is an eternal optimist who looks on the bright side of life. She has a kind word for everybody and always maintains a smile on her face.

This character study from British writer-director Mike Leigh ("Vera Drake," "Topsy-Turvy" and "Secrets & Lies") takes a brief snapshot of a month in Poppy’s life. Her four weekly driving lessons with Scott (Eddie Marsan) give the film structure in a series of otherwise unrelated episodes.

Poppy is a charming, 30-year-old primary school teacher with boundless energy. She has lived with her roommate Zoe in London for 10 years and is still looking for Mr. Right.

The performances of Hawkins and Marsan are the main reason to see this movie. The fun-loving Hawkins is so natural in the title role that it doesn’t appear she is acting. She totally embodies a princess in her own fairytale. Hawkins should be considered for an Oscar nomination in the best actress category.

Marsan offers the perfect contrast with deep-seated anger issues and a cynical viewpoint of expecting the worst in every situation.

A lot of time is spent with Hawkins and Marsan conversing inside a car. Leigh provides variety by employing a multitude of different camera angles that include aerial shots and facial close-ups. The pronounced English accents are hard to follow for untrained American ears, but after awhile the dialogue becomes easier to comprehend.

The random and haphazard situations with unusual eccentric characters are intended to mirror slices of everyday life, but often come out as improbable, improvisational skits. An encounter with an incoherent and strange homeless man comes from left field and is totally out of context.

Comic relief is provided during flamenco lessons where women take out their frustrations by stomping their feet on the dance floor and clapping to the rhythmic beat. Another subplot involves Poppy dealing with a bully at school which brings her into the orbit of a handsome male social worker.

Leigh wants the audience to appreciate his work of art. It is no accident that his pace is slow and deliberate. The viewing experience parallels stopping to observe one painting after another at an art gallery opening while sipping a glass of wine.

Now playing exclusively at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts.

Review By:
Keith Cohen, "The Movie Guy"


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