Film

Hats Off

by

You may not know Mimi Weddell’s name, but you probably know her face: As Jyll Johnstone’s documentary shows, the pool of agile 93-year-old women adept at playing aristocratic and/or crazy is a small one. Clips more and less memorable punctuate Johnstone’s loving profile, spanning a decade in the bit-player’s life: multiple Law & Order appearances; a memorable guest spot on Sex and the City; slumped over catatonic next to Bill Murray for a one-shot gag in Broken Flowers; or inexplicably chasing a student in a trash can as a serial killer in 1981’s Student Bodies. There’s no great argument to be made for Weddell as a master thespian, just one for her perseverance and amazing physical condition: As an nonagenarian, she can complete full gymnastics routines in record time. Johnstone’s profile doesn’t sand away Weddell’s rough edges—her motivational cliché of “Rise above it” applies not just to career obstacles, daughter Sarah explains, but to her own children. It also doesn’t make her add up to anything more than a cantankerous curiosity. Weddell isn’t really representative of an older generation of actors; she’s one of a kind. But this visually indifferent documentary never explains why that matters.

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