Just from the movie title, this comedy should get an extra star in its rating. Unconditional love is a powerful combination; a term I have always tried to live my life by. For anyone who lives with unconditional love, I say more power to them. Besides having a great movie title, I am doing a different type of review because I was an extra in this film. I will share my observations as I was fulfilling one of my dreams–to see and be part of a movie production. Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic) played Grace Beasley. Devastated when her husband Max, played by Dan Aykroyd (The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters franchise), told her he did not want to be married to her any longer; on an impulse, Grace decided she would fly to London to attend the funeral of her favorite entertainer Victor Fox, played by Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Pirates of the Caribbean franchise). While in England Grace convinced Victor’s partner Dirk Simpson, played by Rupert Everett (Hysteria, My Best Friend’s Wedding) to fly back with her to Chicago to find out who had killed Victor. There was a trail of madcap events that ensued which would put the couple in danger and have an affect on the entertainer’s estate. This was a fluffy, harmless comedy caper with a robust cast of characters. The story was silly for the most part, but I still enjoyed it. Kathy Bates was an incredibly warm person who would come to the set each day in a full length fur coat, fluffy house slippers and her little pet dog. The staff told us we were not allowed to look Rupert Everett in the eyes, nor speak to him unless he spoke to us first. He was surly and ignored everyone except his fellow actors. Lynn Redgrave (Gods and Monsters, Peter Pan) who played Victor’s sister Nola Fox was absolutely charming, sitting with the extras in the general dining area. Throughout the day the extras were fed pizza and doughnuts between takes. Luckily I brought some snacks that were a little healthier. The scene I was in included Barry Manilow and Sally Jessy Raphael. Between shots Barry entertained everyone by singing and playing the piano. Sally would walk behind the set after each take, where her husband dutifully waited for her. My scene was at the very end of the movie; I was an audience member of a television show. It took 2 1/2 days to film that one scene because Dan Aykroyd purposely kept changing his lines, causing everyone to crack up with laughter. If you look beyond his shoulder you can see a younger me with a full beard and more hair on my head, having the time of my life.
2 1/2 stars — DVD
It has been said that outside of divorce, moving is the most stressful thing in one’s life. I remember gaining 15 pounds on my last move. Having lived in the same area my whole life, I cannot imagine how much more anxiety ridden it would be, to move out of state. There was a time when I was planning to move out of state; the saving grace being it was my choice, for a happy reason. It has to be awful when one is being forced out of their home. And what must it be like if you had to leave the country of your birth? Set in Shanghai, China during the 1930’s; Russian Countess Sofia Belinskya, played by Natasha Richardson (The Parent Trap, Maid in Manhattan), was the sole income earner for her displaced family. She worked at a bar, entertaining the male clientele. One day she noticed Todd Jackson, played by Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter franchise, The Reader), a blind American ex-diplomat. When Countess Sofia noticed two men plotting to jump Mr. Jackson outside of the club; she interceded, guiding him to safety. From this chance meeting, the two sad individuals formed a working relationship. The countess would be the centerpiece to Mr. Jackson’s new business venture, a nightclub called The White Countess. This beautiful period piece was good because of the acting. It is sad that we do not have Natasha in our lives anymore; for she was wonderful as the melancholy woman of royalty, reduced to degradation and worry, as Japanese forces began exerting their presence in the city. Ralph Fiennes did an outstanding acting job with his role. However, I found it disappointing that Natasha’s mother and aunt, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave were underutilized. The story dragged in parts, in need of some tightening up. If you are not familiar with Natasha Richardson’s work, you would be well served by seeing her in this movie.
2 3/4 stars — DVD