IF I DO NOT KNOW AT LEAST several guests at a social function, I feel like I am walking into uncharted territory filled with landmines. It is best to keep one’s guard up when attending such affairs, I have found. The reason I feel this way did not suddenly happen after attending one party; it took my going to several parties and experiencing the full force of passive aggressive guests before I came to this conclusion. Please hear me out before you reach a conclusion. When I do not know people at a party, I tend to be more reserved. I will circulate through the guests before I find a spot that I can claim for myself. As the evening progresses I will either strike up a conversation or a guest will come up to me. During our conversation, the person I am talking to will make an offhanded comment about another guest they tell me they know, maybe about something they are wearing or their physical features. I have learned when someone is expressing a negative comment about someone who is a stranger to you, they are trying to lay some type of groundwork to win you over to their “side.” Do not ask me why this happens but some people feel the need to win over total strangers as some kind of support while they are holding a grudge or feud with the individual. Maybe it is something about “strength in numbers;” I just don’t know. IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS THESE encounters at parties are not a big deal to me because more than likely I will never see these individuals again. However, it is a whole different ballgame when situations like this take place at one’s new place of business. Yuck, it is challenging to walk into a work environment where employees have chosen sides and you are the new neutral country in the middle of their war. The more vigilant employees will use every opportunity to tear down the employee they do not like, by making little comments to you about them. I used to sit next to someone at a job where every day I would have to listen to them make a snide remark about a fellow employee’s work or hygiene or mannerisms or some other such thing; it was exhausting for me. I had no opinion one way or the other; so, my defense was to simply respond with one-word exclamations, like “oh” or “really.” My philosophy was to let their talking go in one ear and out the other; I would form my own opinions. This is something I was trying to do while listening to all the hotel guests in this dramatic, crime mystery. HIRED TO FIND OUT HOW A millionaire received a fake jewel Detective Hercule Poiret, played by Peter Ustinov (Death on the Nile, Logan’s Run), found himself on a small island where a dead body showed up. With Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey, The Lady in the Van) as Daphne Castle, James Mason (A Star is Born, North by Northwest) as Odell Gardener, Nicholas Clay (Excalibur, Zulu Dawn) as Patrick Redfern and Diana Rigg (Game of Thrones-TV, The Painted Veil) as Arlena Stuart Marshall; this film festival nominee’s story was based on Agatha Christie’s novel. Just knowing that will tell you what you are in store for when watching this movie. The cast was eclectic and fun to watch; I enjoyed all the characters, especially the ones of Maggie Smith and Diana Rigg. With such a large cast there were several story lines to follow, but it was easy to do so. Out of the different movies made from Agatha Christie’s novels, I found this screenplay slightly tamer with several bland scenes. The setting was great, the actors were well versed; I only wished there was more suspense and dramatic flair. Still, I enjoyed trying to figure out who committed the crime.
WHILE WAITING IN THE CHECKOUT LINE, there was a floor show taking place two aisles over from me. There was no way getting away from it, so I along with the other shoppers stood quietly amused while the child performer was in the middle of his soliloquy. I am sure all of us have experienced such a performance within our families and friends; but the one taking place at the grocery store was over the top melodrama. The little boy was pulling out all the stops, being a true “drama queen.” He was carrying on about a box of cereal and a candy bar. I assumed his mother denied his request to buy him one or both items. Weeping with tears rolling down his face I was able to make out part of what he was saying between his sobs. He was telling his mother that he never gets anything and all he is asking for is one candy bar. I had to chuckle when he told his mother he would share the cereal with her if she bought it. When she still declined, he wailed out “Noooooo” and fell to the floor. She told him to get up then turned to the shoppers around her and apologized. Each person gave a slight smile with a nod of their head; there was nothing to be done. You had to feel for the mother because a performance like that, I am sure, was not going to be a one-time event in her life. I USED THE TERM “DRAMA QUEEN” to describe that little boy because I use that term for both male and female, since I have experienced my share of adult drama queens. If you have never experienced one just stand near a customer service counter and you are bound to see one in action at some point. When I took a part time job for the holidays, part of my responsibilities was working the customer service desk. Most of the customers were polite and understanding, but there were a few who would carry on how their event was ruined or they looked like a fool or my favorite, when I would tell them the delivery date of their order and they would go into this operatic aria how that was not acceptable ending with, “I was ruining everything!” It always astounded me how they would make a scene and blame me for something out of my control. I always wanted to tell them this was not a life or death situation, but instead kept calm and quiet. The reason I mention all of this is because I felt I was experiencing another melodramatic opera by watching this dramatic, adventure fantasy. WHOEVER COULD PULL THE SWORD EXCALIBUR out of the stone would become king of the land. Though almost every knight wanted to try, there were some who had other ideas on how to rule. With Nigel Terry (The Lion in Winter, The Emperor’s New Clothes) as King Arthur, Helen Mirren (Collateral Beauty, The Good Liar) as Morgana, Nicholas Clay (Sleeping Beauty, Evil Under the Sun) as Lancelot, Nicol Williamson (Robin and Marian, Spawn) as Merlin and Paul Geoffrey (The Thomas Crown Affair, Wuthering Heights) as Perceval; this film festival winner was such an over the top production to watch, that I felt like I was living in a different time. Dated by today’s standards, I still was enthralled with the size of the cast, the melodramatic classical musical score and the overall cheesiness of the script. The story is a familiar one that has been done before, but this production felt like an opera to me. And the extra kick of it all besides seeing a young Helen Mirren was to see an equally young Patrick Stewart and Liam Neeson, before they became who we know them to be now. It was such a trip down memory lane to see the big production values of movies from the 1980s; I had to wonder if people were more inclined to be over the top dramatic back then as well.
2 ½ stars