MRS CALDICOT'S CABBAGE WAR
Mrs Thelma Caldicot (Pauline Collins) has been married to a ghastly man who has the good grace to die, and the downtrodden woman is shunted into a retirement home by her equally ghastly son and his wife (Peter Capaldi and Anna Wilson-Jones), run by yet another ghastly chap, Hawksmoor (John Alderton). But itís here that Thelma slowly finds the inner strengthto stand up for herself and to discover some of the joys of living. And even to rebel!
Review by Louise Keller:
How could you help but be intrigued with a film with such a title? A poignant but delightfully amusing story about enjoying old age with grace and dignity, Mrs Caldicotís Cabbage War is a David and Goliath story that zings with the zest of youth. I guess I will always think of Pauline Collins as Shirley Valentine, and here, she is Shirley all over again, albeit a little older and with lower expectations of life. Collins is wonderful, and her journey from repressed mentally abused housewife to liberated individual with self-esteem is a joyous and satisfying one. The story of a woman placed in a rest home for the elderly may seem a dubious theme for entertainment, but let me assure you, this is a feel-good film that will make you smile, while at the same time touching on serious topics that are relevant to everyone. Malcolm Stoneís adaptation of Vernon Colemanís novel tackles the issues head on, never belittling or making fun of the characters, but allows the humour to be revealed naturally. The set up is delicious, when we first meet Thelma and Henry, as she responds in servile fashion to his demands over breakfast. Thatís when we first hear the little voice inside her head expressing what she really thinks, while her robot-like rooster-pecked wifely persona placates. As he whines that she has spent a couple of pounds more this month on coffee, he toys with another kind of wine - his bottle of Nuits St George. We get the message loud and clear from the very start Ė Henry is using Thelma as a doormat and she doesnít like it one little bit. By the time we go through the front door of the Twilight Years Rest Home with Thelma, we are behind her all the way, as the Faulty Towers-like environment unfolds, John Alderton splendid as Hawksmoor. The contrast of cabbage for the patients and lobster for Hawksmoor could not be plainer and like Thelma, we are ready to revolt. Itís a shockingly sad environment, where the health, wellbeing and dignity of its inhabitants are compromised for maximum profit and ease of management. But sedation turns to elation, as Thelma brings a new lease of life to them all, allowing fun and self-expression to replace hopelessness and loneliness. We get involved in the individual stories, and when a beautifully groomed and impeccably dressed Thelma tells her story on television and in the newspaper, revenge has never seemed so sweet. The entire cast is sterling, creating real and memorable characters that we can relate to. There are some priceless moments, and although there may not be definitive answers to the more serious questions raised, Mrs Caldicotís Cabbage War is an absolute delight.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Isnít it a lovely, English title, revelling in the ordinariness of life, shunning the glamour possibilities of the story, shunning any mystique and plumbing for Ö. plain. Cabbage. Thereís not much plainer than cabbage. (At least not as the English cook the wretched veg.) Pauline Collins would not have been my first choice for Mrs Caldicot, only because she brims too much with inner strength and humour, which the real Mrs Caldicot only begins to acquire late in this story, well after 40 horrid years of marriage to a hideous oaf who had the good grace to die a humiliating, silly death. Itís a cocoon-to-butterfly story, albeit the cocoon is middle aged, and the trappings of how it happens are also very English, presented here like a tv sitcom Ė an extended one. Too long and languid, too simplistic and too overworked, the film barely manages to sustain itself as a comic exploration of serious issues - like the value of old people, and the value of standing up for yourself. Itís modestly entertaining, but hardly a big screen event.
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MRS CALDICOT'S CABBAGE WAR (M)
CAST: Pauline Collins, Peter Capaldi, Anna Wilson-Jones, Gwenllian Davies, Sheila Reid, Frank Mills, Frank Middlemass, John Alderton, Isla Blair
PRODUCER: Andy Birmingham
DIRECTOR: Ian Sharp
SCRIPT: Malcolm Stone (Vernon Coleman, novel)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sue Gibson
EDITOR: Gerry Hambling
MUSIC: Alan Lisk
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Malcolm Stone
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Adelaide: March 13, 2003; Other states: May 15, 2003