I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently, and Steve Coogan was on talking about the movie Philomena. I must admit that I had no real idea who he was. When I was talking at work about the fact that The Wife and I gave the movie two thumbs up after we had seen it a couple weekends ago at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, one of my colleagues said, “But doesn’t it star Steve Coogan?” After I confirmed this, she indicated that he always plays a real jerk in movies, particularly in some comedies I had never seen.
As “world-weary political journalist” Martin Sixsmith, Coogan’s character is more than a little arrogant as he lowers himself to investigate “the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.” He finds the now aging Philomena (Judi Dench) quite pedestrian. But during the journey to two continents, he develops a different relationship with her.
Coogan not only costars in the film, he co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Pope, based on Sixsmith’s book, “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,” after he happened upon an article about the true story. AND he is a producer of the film.
Ever since I saw the film, I’ve wanted to extol its praises, including the fact that the trailer does not give away too much. But the less you know, the better your viewing experience will be. I will say the second half of the touching film is even better than the first, Dench and Coogan are very fine, at under 100 minutes it is efficiently made, and that a late American President figures prominently in the narrative.
OK, since the Academy Awards nominations were announced – it’s up for Best Picture and Dench for Best Actress – there’s been a debate whether the Church gets a pass; that, I think, is not the film I saw.