Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rise Above It

Few things are more depressing to me than feel-good, life affirming movies. I'd rank pineapples, ham, chocolate, cigarettes, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Celine Dion, Hawaii and pastel colors in the same category. So I went to see the new documentary Hats Off with some trepidation.

At 93 and 95 pounds, actress/model Mimi Weddell is, on the surface at least, one of those spunky old ladies that you could almost see Willard Scott featuring in his Smucker's birthday greetings. With a clipped, Bostonian blue-blood accent and a collection of several hundred hats, she's been seen by most of us a few times in countless bits parts in A-list movies, lead parts in B, C and D-list movies, commercials and print work. Everything from Juicy Couture to California Cheese (in which she claims to have been around so long that she knew Monterrey Jack himself).

Weddell is amazing for her physical and emotional stamina, despite a constant cigarette in an elegant holder, which allows her to go on constant cattle call auditions and put in 14 to 20 hour day shoots. She also shows some pilates routines that would be amazing for 50-year-old but one must see to believe someone past 90 can do. She is by turn grotesque and gorgeous and sometimes both at the same time.

When her husband, a descendant of the Mayflower but with no business sense, died and left her with nothng but debt, she began pursuing her acting career age 65. The day of his funeral, she got on a plane to L.A. and acted in a vampire movie.

The strength of the film is the underlying conflict between her and her two 50-something children who are both overweight and prone to deconstructive self-analysis. That doesn't seem to have brought them anymore peace or happiness. Weddell herself despises self-introspection or analysis and prefers to face adversity with her motto of "Rise above it." What's unfortunate about the film is that it does take too much of a Willard Scott approach to her spunkiness without maybe a little more delving into her dysfunctional but still loving family. After angst-filled documentaries such as Capturing the Friedmans, it is refreshing to see a more upbeat film like this with a few shades of darkness. There is much frustration, disappointment, resentment and regret in this family but no hint of deep, dark stories.

It was all worth it for me, for a finale in which Mimi indulges herself in a hoiday that she had longed for since she was 13. Seeing her on a carousel in one of her trademark hats, as she opines that even going in a circle she feels that she is going somewhere was encouraging to know that it's never too late for some dreams to be realized.

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At 12:30 PM, Blogger mouse (aka kimy) said...

I find mimi somewhat frightening....

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Mouse - She is quirky but sweet. No need to be afraid.


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