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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

WODEHOUSE IN EXILE (2013)

Charming, funny, touchingly sad, this modest BBC movie (Tim Fywell direction/Nigel Williams script) follows comic writer P. G. Wodehouse as he stumbles thru WWII as if he were one of his own dense characters; more Bertie Wooster than Jeeves. Caught flatfooted at his home in France as the Nazi Occupation rolls in, he spends a year in internment camp, making the best of enemy alien status in default mode, writing witty essays on his prison experiences to amuse himself & his fellow detainees. But when he broadcasts similar whimsy to then neutral America, his amusements come across as insensitive, possibly treasonous; clueless sops to German 'decency.' The case against him was always a stretch, careless & naive is closer to the mark. But the serious damage to his reputation, especially in England, was real and largely irreparable. The whole thing works thanks to some remarkably sweet-tempered, sly, empathetic role playing by Tim Pigott-Smith as Wodehouse; well supported by Zoƫ Wanamaker as a wife whose eyes are fully open to his awful situation, and from Julian Rhind-Tutt as a sympathetic army advisor. With nice period feel on a limited budget. More modest pleasures like this, please.

DOUBLE-BILL/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: These days, Wodehouse is probably best known for JEEVES & WOOSTER/’90-‘93, the Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie series. Though Musical Comedy mavens should tip their hat toward one of the co-creators (from the ‘teens thru the ‘30s) who wrested the form away from European operetta.

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