If you like "Nanny McPhee Returns," Scarecrow Video recommends other Emma Thompson films — "Sense & Sensibility," "Dead Again" — and a classic featuring another famous nanny.
Emma Thompson is back this week in “Nanny McPhee Returns,” the cleverly named sequel to 2005’s “Nanny McPhee,” which was about a magic Nanny (her name is McPhee), who wrangles some decent behavior out of seven ne’er-do-well British kids. This one is about that selfsame Nanny, only this time she’s straightening out an entirely different set of maladjusted kids.
It only makes sense that our Scarecrow Video recommendations this week kick off with “Mary Poppins,” the clearest ancestor to Nanny McPhee. But that’s a little too easy, so let’s try something else.
Did you know that Emma Thompson is also an accomplished screenwriter? Not only did she script the two “McPhee” films, but she also adapted Jane Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility” back in the ’90s for director Ang Lee. It’s got a great cast, with Thompson as well as Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, Thompson and Winslet play sisters who, left with no income after the death of their father, must move in with relatives in the English countryside.
There is poetry and dancing and there are ever so many delightful romantic misunderstandings (hat-tip to “The Simpsons”). Seriously though, it’s a fantastic adaptation, almost a quintessential one, as it strips away a lot of Austen’s repetition and excess characters to streamline the story into a sweet, rewarding love story.
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But Thompson isn’t all period dramas and costumes and British what-have-you. In 1991, she starred with her then-husband Kenneth Branagh (who also directed) in “Dead Again,” an updated, um, stab at a Hitchcock-style thriller in the vein of “Vertigo.”
Husband and wife both play dual roles: He’s a detective investigating her, a beautiful amnesiac in present-day L.A. Flashback to the ’40s and Branagh’s a famous composer jealous of his possibly unfaithful wife (Thompson). It’s pretty silly, but the film wears its numerous influences on its sleeve, and plays with a very heightened sense of melodrama you don’t often see in modern thrillers.
Remember how we said we weren’t going to talk about “Mary Poppins?” We lied. Actually, “Mary Poppins” is obviously the perfect recommendation for “Nanny McPhee” fans. Honestly, have you watched it lately? It’s unbelievably bizarre. Would it surprise you at all that in the past few years it’s accumulated a reputation as a seminal work of cinematic feminism?
Just at a cursory glance, you can see that it’s about a confident, independent woman who comes in at a moment’s notice, cleans up a struggling family, breaks a few hearts and skips off to do her own thing when she decides the time is right. Of course, there’s a lot more to this surreal little trip than some progressive politics. “Mary Poppins” has definitely earned its status as a classic. We’ll have to wait and see about “Nanny McPhee.”
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