Saturday, May 29, 2010

Worthwhile Movie #3 - Behind the Mask

I can’t remember where I heard about Behind the Mask, but it must have been one of those “If you like this, then you’ll like that…” lists. Frankly, it is one of the best recommendations I’ve ever received.

Behind the Mask is a true story of a doctor who works in a center for the developmentally disabled. Although Dr. Shushan started out his career as a caring physician, he is now nothing more than a paper pusher who has lost sight of his purpose for living and is out of touch with his wife and son. A heart attack at work and subsequent rescue by one of the troubled young employees begins a series of events that turns his life around.

This made-for-TV movie will amaze and delight you. The script is excellent (and surprisingly clean). The acting is stellar. Robert Shushan is played by Donald Sutherland (who endeared himself to me with his role in the 2006 Pride and Prejudice). Matthew Fox is the custodial worker, James Jones (who has endeared himself to many in his role on the TV show “Lost”.) It’s a movie that manages to be both serious (though not depressing), and satisfying without being sticky sweet. The footage of the actual people involved in the story added to its impact.

Netflix has it, but you can buy it used at Amazon for less than the price of a movie ticket. Make sure you get the right one because there is an R-rated movie by the same name. When we finished watching the DVD, my college-age son asked if he could keep it to show to all of his friends. You’ll probably want to do the same.

Friday, May 14, 2010

They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth

        They Loved to Laugh was recommended by another book blogger (forgive me for not remembering who), but it was a while before I could get my hands on it. Now I’m glad I made the effort.

        At first it had the feel of an Anne of Green Gables book: orphan comes to live with family and endears herself to their hearts. But that is where the resemblance ends. Sixteen year old Martitia Howland loses her parents to yellow fever and is adopted by the Quaker doctor who was with them when they died. The book details her next two years in Dr. Gardner’s home as she gets used to his five boisterous sons and one unfriendly daughter. The title refers to the mischief-loving Gardner sons. Yet as the book progresses, we see that under their boyish exteriors, they are kind and thoughtful young men.

        There are many things to love about this book. First, religion is mentioned as a matter-of-fact part of their lives, but the book is never preachy. Second, the Quaker “thees” and “thous” are not overdone and give poignancy to several conversations in the story. Third, I admired Martitia’s hard work to earn her place as new daughter. While she learns new skills, the reader also gains insight into how to weave cloth, sheer sheep, churn butter, etc. I learned a lot about farm life in the 1830’s.

        You’ll love the Gardner family and you’ll love this book.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

     Because it’s been a long time since I read this book, I decided to revisit it via Librivox audiobooks. One of the first novels to be written in the mystery genre, it’s the tale of two sisters and their art teacher and how their lives become intertwined. Like other sensationalist novels of the Victorian period it includes thwarted love, marital embezzlement, false identities and multiple twists and turns. It sounds tawdry, but I promise, The Woman in White is no fluffy soap opera.

     The novel is long (nineteen hours) yet worth the effort. And though the story line is interesting, it is not what I liked most about the book. First, I loved the solid, honorable character of the tutor, Walter Hartright, whose actions and reactions are always those of a perfect gentleman. Many times he goes against his own personal wishes to protect or help others. Second, I was impressed with the quality of the readers. Some Librivox books are excruciating to the ears, but this particular production has three of the best voices I’ve ever heard: Ruth Golding, Tim Bulkely, and David Barnes. Barnes' depiction of the despicable Uncle Frederick (in chapter 21) is spine-tingling in its accuracy. I plan to listen to additional books by these outstanding readers.