‘Tea With The Dames’ Is A Delightful, Touching Retrospective On Four Living Legends [Review]

The Playlist | 9/20/2018 | Julia Teti
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On a rather dreary day, Roger Michell (“Notting Hill,” “Hyde Park on Hudson”) and his crew sat down with Dames Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins, and Judi Dench, and oh, what a joy it is to watch. Audiences familiar with the women should know what to expect with Michell’s delightful and touching “Tea with the Dames.” Bringing together the four extraordinary actresses, one could only hope for wisdom to be imparted and talent to be recognized. Devotees to the incomparable actresses’ work are given just that, plus a dash of witty comedy and natural conversation between dear friends.

Michell’s documentary on the incredible careers of four accomplished actresses, each having received the honor of Dame in Britain for services to drama, starts off with a style that may be a tad jarring to some viewers. Cutting between the Dames’ conversation and inserting archival footage into the film starts as a bit off-putting. Once the pace is set, however, the flow becomes expected and unsurprising, giving a glimpse of the actresses’ earlier days that many have never seen before. Unless, that is, you were in the playhouse for Dame Judi Dench’s astonishing rendition of William Shakespeare’s “Cleopatra.”

Michell - Film - Acknowledgment - Sheer - Talent

Nevertheless, Michell’s film is a fervent acknowledgment of the sheer talent represented by these women. They are, or ought to be by this point, household names. Each actress is given their due regarding the remarkable work and efforts within the field of drama. But just sitting for a day of tea with the Dames, you wouldn’t guess that they are best known for their serious, sometimes dour, acting work. They are each so aboundingly witty, so full of laughter and wisdom, it’s a shame, frankly, that a full day was condensed...
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