Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom, 2006. Fox Searchlight Pictures, DNA Films, UK Film Council, BBC Films, Scott Rudin Productions, Ingenious Film Partners. Screenplay by Patrick Marber, based on the novel What Was She Thinking: Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller. Cinematography by Chris Menges. Produced by Robert Fox, Scott Rudin. Music by Philip Glass. Production Design by Tim Hatley. Costume Design by Tim Hatley. Film Editing by John Bloom, Antonia van Drimmelen. Academy Awards 2006. Golden Globe Awards 2006. National Board of Review Awards 2006. New York Film Critics Awards 2006. Online Film Critics Awards 2006. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2006.
Queen Elizabeths young and old come face to face in this searing drama about a lonely, spinster schoolteacher (Judi Dench) who becomes smitten with the beautiful new art instructor (Cate Blanchett) who has recently arrived at her institution. Dench notes in her diaries the disdain she has for Blanchett’s wispy attitude and the frivolities of her obvious upper class origins, but it is not long before we realize she is absolutely fixated on her. When the young heroine confides in Dench that she is having a sexual affair with her 15 year-old student, Dench sees the opportunity to keep Blanchett completely in her power. This fantastic study of psychological obsession achieves high marks in all regards, including two devilishly good performances in the leads: Dench especially has never before done such a great job of tapping into the dark side of her commanding presence, while Blanchett, who is normally a natural at playing imposing individuals, is superb as a naive optimist. The direction by Richard Eyre is top of the line, while Philip Glass’s incredible musical score does a beautiful job of underscoring the tension throughout. The point-perfect screenplay by Patrick Marber is such a treat because both of these women are sympathetic at the same time that they are reprehensible, providing for a very rich experience that keeps the audience completely hooked throughout. Once this one grabs hold of you, good luck trying to shake it off!