Miles on Movies

Notes On A Scandal

reviewed by R. Miles Mendenhall

Does unremitting loneliness lead to crazed attempts to control others? Or is it the other way around? (Dame) Judy Dench’s character, Barbara Covett, in this film raises this and many other questions. This is a tight drama about a repressed lesbian “chickenhawk” preying on a naïve teaching colleague who is a flibbertigibbet actual chickenhawk.

While the setup may not seem amenable to a complex adult story of obsession, love and betrayal, it is. Cate Blanchett’s, Sheba Hart is an Emily LeTourneuesque art teacher whose motivations are hard to fathom, but her stumbling into the web of Densch’s predatory black widow, who is “just looking for a good friend” makes the logic of her crime moot.

Great dialogue, excellent observations about public school teaching and the mindset of burnt out authoritarian teachers towards adolescents (I can assure you that American teachers say many of the same things about their charges!) If there are emotional cannibals, and there are, then Dench’s, Miss Covett is the Hannibal Lechter of their ilk.

The supporting work of Bill Nighy (pronounced Nigh) as the husband Richard Hart merits close attention. You may recognize him as the voice and body, but not the face, of Davy Jones in the last “Pirates Of The Caribbean”. These are some of our current best British thespians doing extraordinary work.

If there is a moral to this emotional horror story, it might be, choose your friends wisely, for they are the ones best placed to really do you in.

My post film in the lobby quip was: “Nice Lady…” “Oh you think? You’d like to get to know her?” To which I only thought of the perfect rejoinder after I’d walked out to the parking lot, “I don’t think I’d be her type!”


You might also want to check out an intelligent negative review by the Slate’s Dana Stevens at:

I see his point, but his concerns were not a problem for me.

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