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DVD Review: Painted Lady

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Painted Lady continues the wonderful legacy of Masterpiece Theater. The two-part miniseries is an interesting British murder mystery. Helen Mirren plays Maggie Sheridan, a former rock star. After hearing noises in the night she finds out that her neighbor has been murdered and some of his paintings stolen. She considered her neighbor as a father figure and decides to investigate the murder herself. The combination of the music, visuals, and acting is superb. The movie takes wonderful twists and turns and keeps you captivated the whole time.

The great thing about Helen Mirren in Painted Lady is that it really showcases her acting skills. She portrays a washed-up '60s rock singer, Maggie Sheridan, who has to pretend that she is a Polish art dealer. Her look transforms halfway though the movie from free spirit to mature woman. She still maintains her free spirit, but she knows that she’s on a mission to gain more information about the crime and adjusts herself accordingly. My favorite scene has to be when Maggie bids at an auction; Mirren's acting kept me tense throughout. It is essentially Mirren’s tour de force acting that keeps the story going.

There are several actors in the movie who also shine. I appreciated the cinematic turns of Iain Glen who played Sebastian Stafford. Stafford is troubled by addiction and his father’s death and Maggie becomes his support. Also notable is Franco Nero who played Robert Tassi. He plays the mysterious Italian art buyer whom Maggie competes against in the pivotal auction scene. His character unfolds as he starts to fall in love with Maggie.

The cinematic shots and cuts are great. The movie is wonderfully dark and plays with angles. I found it interesting how the shots of New York City were in an old '60s style, with the aged film look. One of my favorite shots occurs when Maggie enters one of the hotels. The camera is aimed at the mirrored ceiling. It then proceeds to follow her via the mirror, until it looks down at Maggie going up the stairs of the waiting area of the hotel room. The movie plays with a lot of subtle angles and knows exactly when to cut to different angles or scenes.

At first I didn’t appreciate the music for Painted Lady, but by the second act I finally understood everything. The music cues, on a whole, are subdued and the biggest pieces are the songs sung by Helen Mirren’s character, Maggie Sheridan. I was a little disappointed to find out that it wasn’t actually Mirren’s voice; instead the songs are sung by Jenny Darren. Darren sounds eerily like Mirren, so you don’t actually hear any disconnect between the two.

I do think the film drags on in the first half, but captivates at the end. It’s almost a shame that the drama didn’t have an epilogue. I felt as though the end was rushed. I wanted to know more about Maggie Sheridan and how she settled back into normal life after her investigation. One great note is that although the movie was filmed in 1997, it stands the test of time. Other than the bulky cell phones, nothing seems dated and it follows the timelessness of the art that is displayed. Like several murder mysteries, the premise seems a little silly to me. In theory if Maggie worked with the police, there would have been a different outlook. Nonetheless, I love how the film unfolds.
 
The movie on a whole was captivating. The first act ended at such an interesting point that I had to watch the second part immediately. The DVD’s biggest flaw is that there are no bonus features. There is a short biography of Helen Mirren, but it's only two text pages, plus a partial filmography. The miniseries is about four hours long, so I definitely suggest watching Painted Lady all the way through in one sitting.

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About Michael Pascua