For He’s a Jolly Good Fellowes…

Looking back it just seems unbelievable to me that I never happened to notice this English actor called Julian Fellowes, even if he took part in different movies that were somehow important to me, like Shadowlands, biography of the author of The Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis, Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre that was in my high school final paper and Tomorrow Never Dies of my beloved Bond saga. Nevertheless I didn’t even know he was there until I saw Gorford Park, the 2001 movie that ensured him the Academy Award for the best original screenplay; it’s basically a crime story where nobody gives a fig about the murder, because every character, highborn or servant, has already his huge share of worries going on. But it was when I started watching Downton Abbey that I really fell in love with his work. In six seasons and a conclusive movie he never disappointed me. Every dialogue, character, event, pin, was always perfect and perfectly fit with the whole. Of course both Gosford Park and Downton Abbey are the result of a great team work, and in both of them the actors are really a blessing, starting with Maggie Smith, who stars in both productions and is the most iconic character of Downton Abbey, whose lines have gone viral (“What’s a weekend?” or “I never argue: I explain”). Watching the movie and knowing that I would not have the chance to meet all those familiar characters again was in a way sad, but it was surely the most perfect conclusion imaginable: complete, funny and especially full of hope. Years ago, without knowing it, I happened to join the Bookclub of Neri Pozza, the Italian publishing house of Julian Fellowes. Destiny? I read two of Julian Fellowes’ novels, the funny Snobs and Belgravia, which has now become a tv serial I’m longing to see. Meanwhile I watched The English Game, a Netflix production written by Fellowes about the birth of the first soccer league in England. It wasn’t as good as Downton Abbey, it lacked of its brilliant tones and irony, but it was very well documented (another distinctive feature of Fellowes) and interesting: it was funny to know that in his early days football was born as a gentlemen’s sport, that being paid to play was not only against the rules but also deeply shaming, and the federation owned just one single trophy that was to be returned by the winner team to be assigned again the following year. Actor, writer, screenwriter and even director, Julian Fellowes is talented in every task he undertakes, and that’s why I can’t wait to witness the next one. And since, as we saw in his works, it always runs in the family, Julian’s niece Jessica Fellowes is a talented writer too, and her delicate and sophisticated crime novels (also published by Neri Pozza in Italy) are really enjoyable. In the special features from Downton Abbey’s Bluray Julian Fellowes pronounces a sentence that, though universally compelling, I find particularly suitable for the difficult period we are going through right now: “It’s one of my core beliefs that for all the horror stories in everyday’s newspaper, the fact is that most people are trying to do their best”. Julian Fellowes certainly is.

Sister Act

Anno: 1992

Regia: Emile Ardolino

Interpreti: Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Harvey Keitel

Deloris Van Cartier, cantante in un casinò, assiste per caso ad un omicidio a sangue freddo commesso dal suo uomo, Vince, boss della malavita di Reno. Quando Vince ordina ai suoi scagnozzi di eliminare la scomoda testimone, Deloris si rivolge alla polizia, che le offre protezione se accetterà di testimoniare in tribunale; in attesa del processo dovrà rimanere nascosta nell’ultimo luogo in cui Vince penserebbe di cercarla: un convento.

Sister Act (ho volutamente omesso l’imbarazzante sottotitolo italiano “una svitata in abito da suora”) è a tutti gli effetti un classico della commedia musicale hollywoodiana, genere in cui il regista Emile Ardolino, che ha diretto anche Dirty Dancing, si trova decisamente a suo agio. Non è un vero musical, ma i numeri musicali (bellissimi, divertenti e ancora oggi efficaci) sono perfettamente funzionali alla trama, arricchiscono e danno brio al film. Per Whoopi Goldberg è impossibile deludere, il personaggio di Deloris le viene cucito addosso in modo perfetto. Maggie Smith, anche lei come sempre magistrale, le fornisce un contraltare eccezionale con la sua Madre Superiore rigida e seriosa. Anche se si tratta di una commedia brillante Sister Act trasmette comunque un messaggio positivo e che non è ancora passato di moda: spesso l’amicizia e la comprensione si possono trovare anche nelle persone che sembrano più diverse e incompatibili. La simpatia dei personaggi e la bravura degli attori, nessuno escluso (anche se credo che Harvey Keitel, che in originale simula un accento italiano, potesse fare meglio) fanno perdonare tutti gli stereotipi (tipici del genere e sempre funzionali alla trama, come gli scagnozzi del gangster o il poliziotto corrotto) e le forzature della trama (come la scena del Papa che assiste alla messa al Santa Caterina). Indimenticabile la scena finale con inseguimento delle suore all’interno del casinò. Ha avuto un seguito, Sister Act II, dignitoso ma non all’altezza. Dopo la visione di Sister Act assicuro che chiunque, a prescindere dall’età e dalle convinzioni religiose, si ritroverà a cantare appassionatamente I Will Follow Him.

Voto: 4 Muffin