The Dresser
IMDB rating:
Richard Eyre
Vanessa Kirby as Irene
John Ashton as Gloucester
Tom Brooke as Oxenby / Edmond
Emily Watson as Her Ladyship
Ian McKellen as Norman
Edward Fox as Thornton
Martin Chamberlain as Gentleman
Storyline: In the closing months of World War Two ageing actor 'Sir' and his wife Her Ladyship bring Shakespeare to the provinces with a company depleted by conscription. 'Sir' is plainly unwell, discharging himself from hospital and Her Ladyship believes he should cancel his upcoming performance of 'King Lear'. However Norman, his outspoken, gay dresser disagrees and is determined that the show will go on, cajoling the confused 'Sir' into giving a performance - one which will be his swansong, at the same time drawing a parallel between King Lear and his fool as Norman, despite ultimate disappointment, serves his master.
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Far Less than Movie
The lead actors, great theatrical geniuses both, convey an absolute disinterest in their roles and only put forward what their particular personas can convey in this. Though the adaptation makes more sense than the original film, the actors are just walking through their parts to make a few bucks as compared to the care Finney and Courtenay put in their roles in the original. Of course, considering their talents I was impressed by their expected competence -- but watch the original to see better performances.
Solid Remake of the Harwood Classic Spoiled by Miscasting in One of the Central Roles
Inevitably Richard Eyre's remake of Ronald Harwood's 1980 play is going to be compared with Peter Yates's 1983 film starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay.

In thematic terms, this production more than holds its own. Eyre stresses the symbiotic bond between Sir (Anthony Hopkins) and Norman (Ian McKellen) through a clever use of grouping; the two of them are invariably seen together in the same shot, even when Norman is standing some way away from his employer. The two men are like Yin and Yang; neither can exist without the other. Norman has no life other than within the touring company; while Sir has the undoubted talent to run the outfit on his own, he needs a sounding-board, and Norman more than adequately fulfills the role.

We also get some sense of why Shakespeare is so important to Sir, his company, and his audiences. For Sir it is a means of defining his identity; perhaps more than living with his wife Pussy (aka Her Ladyship) (Emily Watson). Through Shakespeare he can maintain a fantasy-world of power in which he exists at the top of the tree, and can maintain a benevolent despotism over the remainder of his company. Even when at the limits of sanity, it is Shakespeare who keeps him going.

For the company, the chance to work in Shakespeare is equally identity-defining. Thornton (Edward Fox) is a bit-part player given an unexpected chance to play the Fool in KING LEAR. After a lifetime in the shadows, he has the chance to become someone, even if he might lack the talent to do so. Although the company might be tatty, the sets and costumes primitive, it can still provide opportunities that might never exist elsewhere.

For audiences, the chance to see Sir performing during the midst of an air-raid represents an opportunity not only to see Shakespeare live, but to share in a collective experience that provides security for everyone.

Yet the coherence of this production has been disrupted somewhat by the casting of Hopkins in the role of Sir. An undoubted talent in his own right, he lacks the power and the star quality demanded by the role; we have to know that Sir is a romantic talent, someone who can attract attention through sheer emotional power. Hopkins's rendition of Sir as King Lear is far too low-key in tone; it does not demonstrate the character's suffering, and thereby prove just how much the actor welcomes the role.

Ian McKellen makes a convincing Norman, all bird-like gestures and conscious camp. One memorable moment occurs right at the end of the production, when Sir has passed away. Norman reads the beginnings of the autobiography Sir has written; finds his name absent; slumps in a chair and sticks his tongue out like a child towards Sir's corpse. He wants to break free of the dead actor's influence, but knows that he cannot.

The production ends with a shot of the theater in which Sir dies, looking out from the stage into the auditorium. A stagehand crosses the playing area; the lights go out and the action fades to black. This moment emphasizes just how much a story of the theater THE DRESSER is; roles matter more than truth for everyone.
Charming, but doesn't lend very well to the medium.
I have never seen the play, but based on the movie I'm sure it is a deeply moving piece beautifully crafted for minimalist theater. A somewhat meta-King Lear, Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen are masterful and charming in this adaptation. However, all the trappings of a film feel unnecessary. There's something just a bit off about watching a movie both celebrating and mourning the desperation, obsession, and beauty of the theater. This movie was not at all bad, but it's something that needs you to emotionally connect and watching it on screen creates a degree of separation that hinders that connection. If The Dresser were to show up on stage I would see it in a heartbeat, but I can't say that it's something I would ever watch on film a second time.
A great buddy film that highlights real complex human roles
The Dresser, 2015.

*Spoiler/plot- An aging dramatic stage actor during WW2, begins to fall apart and needs his stage 'dresser' to keep him going on during bombing raids in London.

*Special Stars- Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Emily Watson, Sarah Lancashire, Edward Fox, Vanessa Kirby, Tom Brooke.

*Theme- TV cable dramatic movie. It good to have emotional support from your team when you create on the stage.

*Trivia/location/goofs- All interiors shot in film.

*Emotion- A great buddy film that highlights real complex human roles. A TV re-make of the famous theater work that was done as a feature film decades ago with two different male British leads. Still worth watching if you enjoy real characters and dramatic situations.

*Based On- 'Dresser' theater play.
A night to remember
This film tells the story of a man who dresses actors for a play in a theatre back in the second world war. He tries his hardest to convince the ailing lead actor to continue playing King Lear, and witnesses powerful human interactions along the way.

It's remarkable that I haven't heard of "The Dresser" before, given the fact that it has heavyweight actors Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins. The film is a single location film, featuring only indoors of a theatre. There are times I wish I could see the sunshine or some plants and nature, as the colour scheme is all brown and dark. The story itself is slow, but very dialogue heavy. There was a time when I thought the film was about to end, it turned out that I have only been watching for thirty minutes! The film felt long and slightly tedious, but the ending makes up for it. It is certainly a night to remember for the actors of the theatre.
Superb Acting in This Deep Drama
There's superb acting in this deep and powerful drama, adapted to the screen by Ronald Harwood, based on his own play, and ably directed by Richard Eyre. It will probably appeal only to a certain slice of viewers, those that can get into a deliberately paced and dialogue driven film and are not looking for an action flick.

The lead actors here Anthony Hopkins, Ian McKellen, Emily Watson, and Sarah Lancashire are all excellent in their roles. with a fine supporting cast enhancing the movie. To be honest, I hadn't heard of Lancashire before, but she was quite amazing in a very understated performance, and one scene with Hopkins was truly mesmerizing.

All in all, I found this film became even more powerful as it progressed and with its superb acting, writing, and direction can certainly be recommended for those that like a heavy and most well presented drama.
The Thunder, The Storm, and the Passing
Ronald Harwood has adapted his very successful play THE DRESSER for the screen and under Richard Eyre's direction and the consummate skills of a brilliant cast this made for television film is one of the finest pieces of cinema of the year.

The story is as much about the aging process as it is about the frustrations and challenges of being on the stage a bit past the moment when lines can be remembered and directions not as natural as once they were become a challenge. It is also a very fine study of British theater – not the glowing lights 'Broadway' type, but the little touring countries that brought and bring Shakespeare to the people in the little towns where the audiences respect theater.

The film opens during the blitz of England during WW II in a rundown old theater that despite the blitz an audience has packed the house for a production by a small, struggling theater company of Shakespeare's 'King Lear'. The titular head of the company (Sarah Lancashire) worries that aging actor 'Sir' (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Her Ladyship (Emily Watson) will be able to perform. 'Sir' is plainly unwell, discharging himself from hospital and Her Ladyship believes he should cancel his upcoming performance of 'King Lear'. However Norman (Ian McKellen), his outspoken, gay dresser disagrees and is determined that the show will go on, cajoling the confused 'Sir' into giving a performance - one which will be his swansong, at the same time drawing a parallel between King Lear and his fool as Norman, despite ultimate disappointment, serves his master.

The relationship between Sir and Norman is profound and in the end very touching. Hopkins and McKellen and Watson are in top form and are ably supported by Lancashire, Edward Fox (unrecognizable in his costume as the Fool), and Vanessa Kirby. This is a splendid film on every count and one that deserves many awards.
Understated perfection
My goodness, you don't get better than this. Tony Hopkins and Ian McKellen are perfectly cast in this authentic feeling take on travelling theatre during the second world war. Ill and aged, 'Sir' has premonitions, Norman (the Dresser) is desperate to hang on to what little life he has as Sir's most trusted aide. Without his role he has nothing. Norman is so caught up in his own anxieties he misses the clues to Sir's nagging self-doubts, his statements that 'he can't go on' and that 'really he should be resting at home'. Hopkins's portrayal is so subtle it is heart rending. This subtlety cannot be gained on stage as stray tears cannot be seen from the stalls let alone the gallery. McKellen, meanwhile, fusses and flaps with perfectly understood gay mannerisms for the period setting. As Norman, he gets perfectly right the intonation in his voice as he ducks and bows to Sir. These two actors provide stand out performances but this is not to commend all the other actors who also pull off incredibly touching and believable performances. Oh yes, this is worth watching, just be prepared to be left bereft.
My thoughts on The Dresser (2015)
It's funny how 32 years can fly past so quickly. It's one of those titles you'd have thought they'd never dare tackle, but sure enough they did.

Thoughts before watching, they won't hold a candle to the mastery of Messers Courtenay and Finney. Was Hopkins right for Sir?

Thoughts after watching, a successful outing for two acting greats that managed so amuse and sadden. McKellen expertly cast, Hopkins shone after twenty minutes or so. It generated a level of intimacy, similar to the feeling captured only live on stage.

A nice touch having Edward Fox in the remake, he'd been marvelously cold as Oxenby back in '83. The part where he touchingly pleads for work was beautiful.
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