The Hallmark Channel’s Three Wise Women stars the great Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan in the story of a doctor named Liz who is about to make a terrible mistake. Her guardian angel has to bring in some very important advisers — Liz herself as a young girl and an older woman — to show her the way.
Ms. Flanagan, who also appeared in “Waking Ned Divine” and “Yes Man,” talked with me about making this film — and about her own favorite Christmas tradition.
How did you coordinate with the other actresses who played your character?
One of us doesn’t know that the other two of us are her, older and younger, so therein lies the comedy. We imitated each other, but people change as they grow older and one of them is very young, like 17 years of age and I’m in her 60’s, so people change and their gestures change as they grow older. We didn’t sit down and say, “Let’s coordinate all of this.” But some things came naturally and we all imitated each other.
What was your first major part as an actor?
I did a role in a play in Gaelic for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1963-64 and was then hired to play it in television in Irish, and that was my first break. I went on to play it in English and then went to the Old Vic where I played leads in “Taming of the Shrew” and “The Playboy of the Western World.”
What do you look for in the parts you take?
I always look to see if the part moves the story along. If it doesn’t do that, it’s just window dressing. In this particular instance it is very much an ensemble piece, with three actresses playing the same person, with the comedy built in because she doesn’t know she is seeing herself much younger and much older. That obviously moves the story along. Do we turn out in later life the way we think we will? The answer is “almost never.” If you, Nell, were to meet yourself at 90, wouldn’t you think you’d be different? We always have fantasies about how we’re going to be; we’d be horrified to see ourselves in the future and say, “Look at all those wrinkles! I wish I’d given up smoking!” This story provided that with all the comedy that lies therein.
Why do the Hallmark channel movies touch people so much?
They make films about things that people care about, things that happen in ordinary people’s lives, not cops and robbers and fantastical stories. Not everyone is wearing a Prada suit. These are backwoods stories that happen out of sight to people who are not always wealthy and powerful. People identify with that. It’s pleasurable because if you treat people well and behave kindly and honor your citizenship, good things will happen.
What is your favorite holiday movie?
I don’t have one but every Christmas I listen to Dylan Thomas’ wonderful recitation of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Many people have read it, but I have the recording of him reading it himself and it is so charming and funny. It’s about ordinary people in a mining town in Wales and I love it for that reason. The child saying, “Get to the presents! Get to the presents!”
Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make an inspired buddy cop pairing in “The Other Guys,” a rare comedy based on something other than snark or irony or insults or humiliation or high concept. This is that rarest of comedies — kept aloft by a delirious, surreal, irrepressibly sunny randomness, delivered with sincere conviction and all the funnier for it. In an early exchange destined to be memorized and repeated endlessly by fans, Detective Hoitz (Wahlberg), frustrated by being assigned to desk duty, tells off his new partner, Detective Gamble (Ferrell), who prefers the paperwork, using the metaphor of a lion devouring a tuna. Gamble comes back at him with a deliciously loopy monologue, taking the comment literally, and then, when Hoitz comes right back in on the same level, it reaches for the sublime.
Hoitz and Gamble work in a police precinct where two cops (Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) get all the excitement, all the glory, and all the girls. That’s fine with Gamble, recently transferred from forensic accounting. But Hoitz, who likes to describe himself as “a peacock who needs to FLY!” is smoldering, furiously playing solitaire at his desk while other cops go out on all the exciting assignments. At a support group for officers who fired their weapons on duty, we find out why he was reassigned. Let’s just say he shot the wrongest guy imaginable.
When the two hero cops are out of the picture, Hoitz and Gamble step in, despite the competition from another team (Rob Riggle playing the frat boy part he always plays and Damon Wayans, Jr. looking like his dad) and the directions from their Chief (Michael Keaton). Of course, as in any buddy cop movie, there are detours to resolve some problems with the ladies (“You’re not a cop until your woman has thrown you out,” says Hoitz). And of course they will discover that they have more in common than they thought, including some anger management issues and interest in Gamble’s wife (a luscious and also very funny Eva Mendes).
There are some dull patches and misfires, especially a backstory about Gamble’s college years. But the action scenes are surprisingly dynamic and a sleazy Wall Street billionaire is played by the always-welcome Steve Coogan. (A brief, unbilled appearance by Ann Heche as another Wall Street type suggests there may be some good extras on the DVD.) And any movie with a police chief who does not realize he is constantly quoting TLC, a trip to “Jersey Boys,” a succession of hot women including Brooke Shields finding Ferrell’s character irresistible, a CD playing “Reminiscing” by the Little River Band, narration by Ice-T, and Wahlberg doing pirouettes qualifies as the funniest movie of the summer.
Is greed still good? Does greed still, for want of a better word, work?
Twenty-three years later, Gordon Gekko is back, still played by Oscar-winner Michael Douglas and now running short on money and even shorter on what he realizes is an even more valuable commodity: time. We see him being released from prison, his personal effects including a gold money clip (empty) and his old cellular phone (the size of a shoebox). He walks out into the sunlight toward a sleek black limo only to see that it is there for someone else, the also-departing rap star.
Balzac famously said that behind every great fortune is a crime. That is literally true in Gekko’s case; he traded on inside information. But it is also true in a larger sense because the real reason for Gekko’s wealth is a fierce and unquenchable passion not for money but for winning. He has had a long time in prison to watch and think and plan his comeback. And so he leverages his notoriety into television and in-person appearances to promote his book.
The sequel is so close to the same framework as the original that at times it feels like a remake. Again there is a bright, ambitious and essentially honest young man with a lower-income parent exemplifying the current financial upheavals who gets drawn by Gekko’s gravitational pull. It’s Jake (Shia LaBeouf), who has the added complication of being engaged to Gekko’s estranged daughter (“An Education’s” Carey Mulligan, LeBeouf’s real-life love). And there is another big-time financier like the one played by Terence Stamp in the first film, Bretton James, played by Josh Brolin. Once again, there is an old guy who is the movie’s repository of wisdom and integrity (a fine Eli Wallach). Once again, the young man thinks he can hold on to his values and once again he will find Wall Street is more treacherous than he thought.
In his brilliant book on the financial meltdown, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis muses that his first expose of the wild world of Wall Street excess, Liar’s Poker was instead viewed “as a how-to manual.” The same is true for the first “Wall Street.” As the costume designer noted, the wardrobe from the first movie was selected for dramatic impact, not authenticity. But it was adopted by the real Wall Streeters, who were as thrilled with Gekko’s look as they were with his bravado, and his wealth.
While Douglas continues to be enough to make the entire movie worth watching, there is little chemistry with LeBoeuf or between LeBoeuf and Mulligan. The first film was an intriguing look at a hidden world. But today, with business news on the front pages and the editorial pages, on 24/7 news channels and thousands of websites, Wall Streeters are less often seen as dashing buccaneers than as the people most responsible for bringing the United States to the brink of economic destruction. The movie itself seems as though it cannot make up its mind what it wants from Gekko.
BEST PICTURE: DRAMA
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
Comment: Where is “True Grit?” And “Toy Story 3” should be in this category.
BEST PICTURE: COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Alice in Wonderland
The Kids Are Alright
Comment: “The Tourist?” Wait, it was supposed to be funny? And where are “Get Him to the Greek” and “The Other Guys?”
Darren Aronosfsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David O. Russell, The Fighter
BEST ACTOR: DRAMA
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
James Franco, 127 Hours
Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine
Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter
BEST ACTRESS: DRAMA
Halle Berry, Frankie and Alice
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine
BEST ACTRESS: COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Anette Bening, The Kids Are Alright
Anne Hathaway, Love and Other Drugs
Angelina Jolie, The Tourist
Julianne Moore, The Kids Are Alright
Emma Stone, Easy A
Comment: Hurray for Emma Stone! Look for her next year as a best actress nominee for “The Help.”
BEST ACTOR: COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Johnny Depp, Alice in Wonderland
Johnny Depp, The Tourist
Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version
Jake Gyllenhaal, Love and Other Drugs
Kevin Spacey, Casino Jack
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Jackie Weaver, Animal Kingdom
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Fighter
Michael Douglas, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps
Andrew Garfield, The Social Network
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
I Am Love
In a Better World
Comment: Nice to see a nomination for “The Concert.”
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, 127 Hours
Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg, The Kids Are All Right
Christopher Nolan, Inception
David Seidler, The King’s Speech
Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat, The King’s Speech
Danny Elfman, Alice in Wonderland
A.R. Rahman, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network
Hans Zimmer, Inception
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
How to Train Your Dragon
Toy Story 3
Comment: This is the toughest category. Every one of them deserves the prize.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Bound To You” (Burlesque)
“Coming Home” (Country Strong)
“I See The Light” (Tangled)
“There’s a Place For Us” (The Chronicles of Narnia)
“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” (Burlesque)