REVIEW: ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ (1969)

The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieTitle: ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’
1969, UK/USA
Director: Ronald Neame
Cast: Maggie Smith, Robert Stephens, Pamela Franklin

“I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.”

Dame Maggie Smith is mostly known to casual (and younger) moviegoers for her roles in the ‘Harry Potter’ saga and the critically-acclaimed show ‘Downton Abbey’. As a talk show host recently told her: “It’s like you never existed before”. Well, the truth is Dame Maggie has been gracing the stage and screen for over 60 years. And if you are thinking about getting up to speed with her previous work, I think ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ is the ideal choice from.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 1Set in an all-female private school in 1932’s Edinburgh, the film is the story of Miss Jean Brody, a progressive teacher dedicated to inspire and influence her impressionable 12-year-old students with her romantic views and histrionic style.

Based on the novel by Muriel Spark (later turned into a play), the script offers Smith the most fantastic dialogue an actress could hope for. Dame Maggie devours the screen, with every tone, every glance, every gesture. The Academy Award she won that year was rightfully deserved, no doubt about that. Jean Brodie is not an easy, nor likable character: even with her best intentions at heart, her narcissistic personality compels her to force her own beliefs onto the young students’ minds, whose adoration she feeds off, while constantly in conflict with anyone mature and independent enough not to blindly share her convictions. This is smart drama at its finest, not some tear-jerking Oscar bait, and Dame Maggie dove completely into the role.

She steals pretty much every scene, but the supporting cast also did an amazing job, further elevating the artistic quality of the movie. Pamela Franklin and Celia Johnson, in particular, both provided formidable opponents to the larger-than-life protagonist of this story.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 2The film’s cinematography is another element that definitely stood out to me. The image composition and the colors choice are impeccable, without coming off as annoyingly artificial. This is a very pleasant movie to look at, especially when you consider it’s over 40 years old.

‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ is a a great film you definitely don’t want to miss.

★★★★☆

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