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Tom & Viv (1994)

By Jack Purdy | Posted

What with April being the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, etc., watching a biopic about T.S. Eliot would not be amiss. And Tom & Viv would be your best, not to say only, choice. Willem Dafoe, who had already played Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ, tackled perhaps an even more daunting role as the emotionally repressed Tom Eliot, whose marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood (Miranda Richardson) started as a union of like minds but dissolved into a hideous mess, thanks to Vivienne's mental illness (and the 1920s medical world's inability to cope with it in any meaningful way) and Eliot's unworldliness. Dafoe and Richardson both give riveting performances, with Dafoe's even more impressive because he doesn't get the big scenes Richardson does. (She pours lots of melted chocolate through a mailbox, for instance.) Richardson, however, was the one who got the Oscar nomination. The Academy also bestowed a Best Supporting Actress nod on Rosemary Harris, as Viv's mother. And why not? Any film that has Bertrand Russell and Virginia Woolf as supporting characters was bound to be viewed as classy. Or as T.S. himself said, "Oh oh oh that Shakespearian rag--/ It's so elegant/ So intelligent."

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