Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith Visit Lourdes and Wind Up Healing the Audience in “Miracle Club”


During the pandemic, “Ozark” was celebrating its latest season at the Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room. Laura Linney, one of its stars, dropped by the masked but crowded party—“on her way to Ireland to make a movie with Maggie Smith,” she said. Now that film, “The Miracle Club,” having just had its world premiere at the recent Tribeca Festival, opens in American theaters July 14th from Sony Pictures Classics.

A road movie for ageless women, as we say, “The Miracle Club” is a European variation on the female travel romp made popular in this country with “The Book Club, 1 & 2,” “80 for Brady,” etc. hugely successful entertainments featuring an older, glamorous, stellar quartet. In the Irish version, with a purposeful, religious pilgrimage that goes back to The Canterbury Tales (1400), you can add soul.

Linney plays the estranged daughter of a beloved Irish woman recently deceased. The woman’s friends—with Kathy Bates joining in with Maggie Smith—take a bus trip to Lourdes for healing. A good part of the film’s beginning goes into the kinds of emotional and physical resuscitation needed here. In lesser hands, this could be melodramatic fodder for a soap opera. Newly arrived to mourn her mother, Linney makes the trip with them, an outsider who used to be an insider; shall we say, without divulging a rich backstory, she is the movie’s miracle.

In Lourdes (filmed in Dublin), there’s a quiet moment that takes your breath away: Linney, helping Smith in a “bath” meant for spiritual cleansing places her hand on Smith’s shoulder in a gesture of generosity and forgiveness. If Americans are concerned with stolen Louis Vuitton suitcases in Rome, here, you might replace the laughs with tears of gratitude. At the SVA Beatrice theater, Linney and the film’s director Thaddeus O’Sullivan noted, this was the first time Linney and Smith performed together; Kathy Bates worked hard with a dialect coach for her fine accent, and the filming took a brisk 25 days.

Catching up with Thaddeus O’Sullivan at Common Ground in the meatpacking district, I asked about the movie’s men, who, predictably miss their women going off like that, leaving kids and grandkids in their care. He said the superb Stephen Rea is both curmudgeonly and the grandfather you wish you had. The child actors loved him. Joking onset, he asked about a bag of vegetables he buys in the market: is there a turnip?

What difference does it make?

You can’t make an Irish stew without turnips.

The men do come around, don’t they? O’Sullivan laughed.

As to the sublime Laura Linney, so good in “Ozark,” and in the recently closed Broadway show, “Summer 1976,” she did not attend the Tony Awards the day before her movie premiered at Tribeca. Only her co-star Jessica Hecht landed a nomination for Best Actress in a Drama for the two-hander. If she was upset at this injustice, no one would know.


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