MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
If I told you that one of the more enjoyable comedies of this year was a film named Military Wives would you believe me?
Yes, it’s a regrettable title, even though it’s a truthful description. It is a film about the women on a British military base who stay calm and carry on when soldiers go off to fight the war in Afghanistan. It’s also a movie about how people cope with separation and the prospect that the person they love may be coming back wounded or not at all. (This particular war took place in the early ’00s, so there is some technology in play but not yet the omnipresent smartphone text messages onscreen.)
There is concern from the top brass on the base about morale and how to unite the women in activities that will keep them in community with each other. Two women will vie for leadership. Kate (Scott Thomas) is a by-the-book person who wants to organize everything to perfection and Lisa (Horgan) is an open-hearted free spirit who hasn’t seen a group meeting yet that wasn’t improved with wine. Yes, it’s a predictable mismatch, with anticipated clashes eventually leading to a place of reconciliation and understanding.
What the film’s title doesn’t reveal is its main plot point – the creation of a women’s choir). Kate prefers hymns of faith; Lisa likes pop songs. (Guess who wins this contest?) Of course, the first rehearsals are filled with the cacophony of off-pitch singing, but things improve significantly in a short period of time so that the choir is invited to represent the military at a Remembrance Day (Britain’s version of Memorial Day) concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Can they pull everything together in time? Military Wives is a hybrid of Pitch Perfect and The Odd Couple and it works brilliantly, leading to a touching and inspirational finale.
It’s a well-cast film, with great chemistry between Scott Thomas and Horgan and a lot of memorable smaller roles. The British are always better creating movies that mix sarcasm with sentiment. This is a perfect example of the genre, with the kind of tonal shifts that enhances so many memorable movies like Love Actually, Sing Street, and The Full Monty (also directed by Peter Cattaneo).Military Wives offers us yet another example of how realized community building can result in something greater than the sum of its parts. Sure, it’s comfortably familiar, but right now comfort food can be mighty tasty.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Five halos: A predictable comedy-drama that also manages to be touching and observant about the women who wait while their spouses and partners go off to war.
Two pitchforks: For typically cheeky British profanity and provocative crude moments, as well as many scenes of wine bibbing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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