POETRY ON THE BIG SCREEN: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

81vv8gxuvl-_sy445_ Well, here it is Friday and the new year is upon us. This is the last of the holiday break movie reviews. Up this time is Mrs.Parker and the Vicious Circle.

Jennifer Jason Leigh won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (1994), the National Society of Film Critics Awards (U.S.) (1995) for best actress, and second place for best actress by New York Film Critics Circle Award (1994) for her portrayal of Dorothy Parker, poet, writer, screenwriter (A Star Is Born, among others), caustic wit and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, the vicious circle. Parker is probably the only member of the Round Table still well-known and not just by those of us old enough to remember her. Witness: The Portable Dorothy Parker is one of three in the 51qrl0o4m1l-1-_sx329_bo1204203200_Portable series that remains continually in print. The other two are the Bible and William Shakespeare.

The Algonquin Round Table, named for the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, was a meeting place for a circle that included  New York writers, critics, screenwriters and actors. During their daily luncheons the members engaged in clever and pithy witticisms and wordplay, shared across the U.S. by the columnists in the group.

“Ducking for apples – change one letter and it’s the story of my life.”

The movie is well-larded with Parker’s quips and short wry poems. It centers on the Algonquin years, circa 1919 through 1929, and her many glamorous but disappointing love affairs.

“I require three things in a man. He must be handsome, ruthless and stupid.”

Some members and associates of the Algonquin Round Table: (l-r) Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott
Some members and associates of the Algonquin Round Table: (l-r) Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott

The movie gives us a peek in on the clever but often cruel bon mots shared by the likes of – among many others – Harold Ross, the famous (or sometimes infamous among writers) editor of the New Yorker, the humorist William Benchley (Parker’s best friend), critic and social commentator Alexander Woollcott, playwright and director George S. Kaufman, and author and playwright Robert E. Sherwood.

It’s rather fun that Peter Benchley, grandson of humorist Robert Benchley and Wallace Shawn, son of long-time New Yorker editor William Shawn, are among the cast that includes such lights as Campbell Scott, Jennifer Beale, Matthew Broderick, Martha Plimpton (distant cousin of George), Keith Carradin, Jon Favreau and Peter Gallagher.

“My land is bare of chattering folk;
the clouds are low along the ridges,
and sweet’s the air with curly smoke
from all my burning bridges.”

Jennifer Jason Leigh is superb in the role of a complex woman who is at once smart and sexy, brittle and vulnerable. The cast is outstanding. The clothing and setting perfect. Both thumbs up on this one.  I suspect those who are familiar with the background of the Table and its members will get the most out of the film but given Parker’s witticisms and Leigh’s performance I think all will enjoy Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle.

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