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Wit (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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99 out of 108 people found the following review useful:

Emma Thompson Is Extraordinary

10/10
Author: jhclues from Salem, Oregon
31 July 2002

First of all, be advised, this is a tough film to watch; but also know that if you choose to do so, you will be rewarded with an experience that is invaluable and unforgettable, and in ways that transcend mere cinematic satisfaction. There is no mystery here, no secrets nor allegories. Indeed, the subject matter is made succinctly evident in the first words you hear, spoken by Dr. Kelekian (Christopher Lloyd) to Vivian Bearing (Emma Thompson): `You have cancer.' And so begins `Wit,' directed by Mike Nichols, a film that will claim you emotionally and take you to a place of eternal night-- a region, in fact, wherein even the most intrepid of body and spirit fear to tread. It puts you in a dark room with that thing in the closet and keeps you there; and there is no way out. And once inside, it forces you to face your worst fears, albeit vicariously, in a way that invites some serious reflection upon mortality and the profundity of life.

Vivian Bearing is a professor of English Literature, specializing in the work of Seventeenth Century poet John Donne. Hers is a scholarly life, and she is secure with her place in it; not yet fifty, she has achieved a level of comfort with herself, as well as her work, especially in the class she teaches on Donne. With her students she is a demanding taskmaster and does not suffer fools, nor students who opt for more immediate pleasures over Donne, refusing to accept youthful zeal as an excuse for academic impropriety. In her classroom, she insists that those in attendance rise to her level; she does not stoop to conquer.

Then, with the words of Dr. Kelekian, her world abruptly changes. At first, wrapped in intellectual armor, she finds at least some comfort and respite in her beloved Donne, but she soon finds that the pursuits of the mind, even leavened with a healthy ego, attain a diminished capacity within the environs of a ravaging disease. The eternity of the hospital affords her much time for reflection, and as her illness progresses she undergoes a change in perspectives; taking stock, she considers such things as the aloof manner she affected that served no purpose other than to distance her from her students. And she thinks about it now, not with regret, but differently; her intellectual acumen no longer separates her from her students, nor affords her a lofty perch from which she may sit in judgment. She understands, at last, that she is not so different from them after all. For as she discovers to her considerable dismay-- pain is the great equalizer.

Written by Nichols and Thompson, the screenplay is based on the play by Margaret Edson. The story unfolds like a living diary, as Vivian addresses the viewer directly, with a descriptive narrative that leaves little to the imagination. Graphically real and unrelenting, it is a riveting chronicle that will hold you in thrall from beginning to end and beyond-- because this experience does not end when the screen goes dark; it's something that is going to be with you for a long time afterwards, so be prepared. And the reason this will linger in your memory is that it's a contemplation of a reality that is horrendous beyond imagination. This is that thing that always happens to someone else, but never to `me,' and to be put in the room with someone to whom the unthinkable has happened-- to be up close and personal with it-- is emotionally devastating. This is a true horror story beyond anything Stephen King could write, because this is `real.' What happens to Vivian Bearing is something that happens to people all the time, and there has never been a film before or since that will put you more in touch with what it feels like, from the incredulity born at the moment of diagnosis to the acceptance of the reality of it. And it has nothing to do with courage; it is not about that at all. It's about knowing that you are going to have to do this thing that you least in the whole world want to do-- and that you have no choice in the matter.

This film is a veritable showcase for the incredible talent of Emma Thompson, who gives a performance that is so remarkable there are not enough superlatives to do it justice. Ineligible for Oscar consideration as this film was made for television (HBO), her performance nevertheless is as Oscar worthy as they come (even more impressive than her Oscar winning performance as Margaret in `Howard's End,' which was nothing less than a study in perfection). As Vivian Bearing, Thompson is absolutely mesmerizing-- you simply cannot take your eyes off of her for even a moment. There are times when you want to look away, to avert your eyes because it's just too painful to watch, but you can't. Once you begin this journey you are bound to her for better or worse. You suffer with her through the physical pain, as well as through the base indignities to which she is subjected as a matter of course by the doctors and care givers who simply do not respond to the humanity of the person in their care; a sad commentary, to be sure, but so true.

What really marks Thompson's performance as so extraordinary, however, is the fact that as you watch the drama unfold, you forget this is an actor playing a role; rather, this is a very real person you are watching-- a person named Vivian Bearing who is dying of cancer.

The supporting cast includes Eileen Atkins (E.M. Ashford), Audra McDonald (Susie), Jonathan M. Woodward (Jason) and Harold Pinter (Vivian's Father). An emotionally absorbing drama that redefines empathy and compassion, `Wit' will make you feel alive like never before, and thankful for each and every day that you wake up healthy. It's a film that will enrich your life. 10/10.

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62 out of 68 people found the following review useful:

Without a Flaw

Author: rdconger from Northern California
6 December 2004

So often one leaves the theater or presses re-wind with a thought taking the form of, "That was a really good film, but..." At the end of "Wit," I could not find a qualifier to complete that thought, and I still cannot. This film is a piece of perfection, tightly fitted but not contrived; dramatic without overstatement; and deeply moving without sentimentality.

It also comprises a tour-de-force performance by Emma Thompson, an actor whose performances are almost always extraordinary -- so the fact that this one stands out says a lot.

The dialogue (and monologue) is amusing, minimalistic but never too little, and is always sufficient to the scene. There is plenty of irony, wry humor, and understated insight; and yet the film, stark as it is, is abundantly human and, in places, even sweet.

At the height of the grinding sorrow that Thompson so skillfully brings us into, a startling scene between her old academic mentor is a loving act of redemption, shared by them both.

As an additional note, the surprising appearance of Christopher Lloyd in this film, as the research oncologist, provides a perfect foil for Vivian's role as a patient and as an academician. Lloyd's performance is convincing, and yet it contains just enough of eccentricity and kindness to make his character's disinterested role entirely sympathetic.

A wonderful film. Not -- be warned -- an easy film to watch, but decidedly worth it.

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44 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic! Emma Thompson is Fantastic in this role.

10/10
Author: usermilt from United States
3 January 2005

Although a sad movie with a sad ending it is absolutely wonderfully fascinating. It holds you glued to you your seat the entire time. For those who are critical, they just do't appreciate Mike Nichols and Emma Thompson's brilliance and are too affected by the subject of facing death. It is a pity that this was a telefilm. Has it been a theatrical release, it would easily have earned Emma Thompson an Oscar.

I thought that Gorecki's 3rd Symphony in the background was a brilliant touch. Christopher Lloyd as the doctor was excellent. Emma's Teacher reading Runaway Bunny at the end was touching and meaningful. Although some people might see this movie as a downer, it is an honest and important work dealing with life, goals, cancer, relationships, . . See it.

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40 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Personal, powerful, harrowing, unforgettable, Emma Thompson in one of the best performances we will see this year. **** (out of four)

9/10
Author: Blake French (baffilmcritic@cs.com) from USA
8 April 2001

WIT / (2001) **** (out of four)

By Blake French:

"Wit" is one of the most personal stories of terminal illness that I can remember. Most of the movie takes place behind hospital doors where the film's main character is tested and treated for advanced stages of ovarian cancer-that may be the reason that it was released straight to cable TV instead of getting a much deserved theatrical release. Do not let the depressing themes stop you from viewing "Wit," it is thought-provoking, riveting, unforgettable-one of the best movies of the year.

The film is directed by Mike Nichols (whose most memorable work is the original classic, "The Graduate"). He is at the top of his game here, vividly focused and, working for a script by himself and Emma Thompson, uses a narrative of the first person. The main character, a strict professor of poety in her upper forties named Vivian Bearing, often talks directly to the camera, incorporating a straightforward point of view as she shares her personal feelings directly. This gives the movie a personal dimension, and the soundtrack, consisting of memorable classical music, contributes to the penetrating power of this superb motion picture.

Since the production never had a theatrical release, it will not be eligible for Academy Awards next March. That is a shame, because the work by Emma Thompson is more invigorating, emotional, and involving as anything we are likely to see this year. She delivers a performance of awe-inducing empathy, doing something many actresses would have trouble dealing with. She plays a tough individual, both physically and emotionally, but, as the movie's clear irony proves, even the strongest people have a breaking point, and when she reaches hers, she loses confidence in her past and current strengths. Thompson is heartbreaking and vivid, creating one of the most convincing and noteworthy characters in a long time.

Christopher Lloyd plays Dr. Harvey Kelekian, the person in charge of Ms. Bearing's treatments. It is clear this man is more concerned about the results of the tests then the actual person being tested. Bearing becomes a mere guinea pig, and as she states in one of the movie's most powerful scenes, she is unbearably ill not because he has advanced stages of ovarian cancer, but because she is being treated for advanced stages of ovarian cancer. It is the actual treatments that are a threat to her health. Eileen Atkins plays a sympathetic nurse who sees Bearing as more than just a patient, but a person. Jonathan M. Woodward delivers a powerful performance as another hospital worker more interesting in numbers than people.

"Wit" is a powerful, harrowing movie not to be missed. It aired on HBO about a week ago and will continue running for a while, until finally reaching home video. Check you local TV listing for show times, or wait for the video release. This movie has a place on my list of the top ten movies of the year, and for you to miss such an influential picture would be a crime.

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29 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Non-abstract Meditation

Author: Matthew Ignoffo (mermatt@webtv.net) from Eatontown, NJ, USA
28 March 2001

"Non-abstract Meditation" may sound like a contradiction, but then this film is full of contradictions -- like life itself.

We are given a look into life and death from the point of view of a poetry scholar who has, in turn, viewed life and death in the abstract through John Donne's poetry. She, in turn, is viewed in the abstract by a renowned doctor who views life and death as a case in a bed and by the scholar's former student who doesn't know how to communicate with patients beyond superficial catch phrases.

This is a touching, powerfully filmed play guided by the witty, amusing, profound, and painful asides and soliloquies of the main character. Her only human contact seems to be through the compassionate nurse, the scholar's old teacher, and the audience -- the point being that we too often live our lives inside walled prisons of our own construction and then come to the end realizing that we had never lived at all.

The movie could easily have descended into melodrama but instead is gritty, prim, and gripping in its own odd way. See this one if you can.

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29 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

movie critique

10/10
Author: iztokgartner-1 (iztokgartner@email.si) from celje, slovenija
9 October 2004

Magnificent film. Very funny no matter of the serious subject. Emma deserved the Emmy and Golden Globe. What a pity that this movie was made only for TV. Her acting is superb. And she also write the screenplay with the excellent Mike Nichols who also gave HBO Angels in America this year. The story of a college professor who has cancer and find's out that people need some personal attention in life. When Demi Moore shaved her head, we've got G.I. Jane, when Emma Thompson did the same, we've got one of the best TV movies in recent history. The story with familiar theme with no clichés and no overly emotions. Very powerful and nicely done. A real masterpiece in the simplicity.

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23 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Powerful And Touching Account Of Living And Dying With Cancer

9/10
Author: sddavis63 (revsdd@gmail.com) from Niagara Region, Ontario, Canada
24 March 2001

This is a wonderful, must-see film.

Emma Thompson puts on a superb performance as Vivian Bearing (a Professor of English Literature specializing in the poetry of John Donne,) who leads us through the last months of her life in narrative style.

Diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer, Bearing agrees to experimental treatments involving powerful doses of chemotherapy. As we see her gradually losing her fight, Thompson convincingly portrays her emotional and physical torment and pain. Audra McDonald is well cast as the compassionate nurse (Susan) assigned as Bearing's primary care giver, who tries to ensure that, in the face of the doctors' temptation to continue to use Bearing as a guinea pig for their research, she will be treated with dignity and respect in her last days. John Woodward is quite believable as a young cancer researcher (Dr. Jason Posner) who really seems to see dealing with patients as an inconvenience that takes time away from what's really important to him, and his rather emotionless and awkward interplay with Bearing suits the character perfectly; a testimony to Woodward's talent.

This movie offers a powerful commentary on the cold and rather antiseptic environment of hospitals, in which patients are seen more as learning opportunities than people. The poetry of John Donne, interspersed throughout the movie as a source of strength for Bearing, is well used.

There's very little to criticize about this movie. Christopher Lloyd (cast in a rare serious role as Dr. Kelekian, the doctor in charge of Bearing's case) comes across as a bit flat, but the role is a relatively small one, and this doesn't detract much from the story. I also found the flashback scenes to be a bit distracting, but these have to be seen in context: this movie is based on an original stageplay written by Margaret Edson, and these scenes would look quite natural in that environment. I also thought the movie went on about five minutes too long. The last scene to me was unnecessary. I personally would have liked to have seen the movie end with the touching visit by Bearing's former Professor. We'd been put through the ringer enough, and didn't need the troubling last few minutes. These are just minor quibbles, though, about a truly great movie.

It's powerful, well acted, well put together. It could be disturbing to some people uncomfortable with illness and death, but it is an educational experience just to watch. I give it 9/10.

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24 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Breathtaking

9/10
Author: sarahelize
16 August 2004

This film was breathtaking, subtle, intelligent and nearly perfect. Emma Thompson was excruciatingly spectacular in her performance, absolutely sublime. I sought-out "Wit" because she was in it, but was not eager to see such a heavy film, as I usually choose lighter entertainment (I loved her in "Junior"). I feel absolutely blessed to have been seduced into seeing it by Thompson's reputation and talent. "Wit" is a masterpiece of theater and film-making. I do not cry easily and I sobbed, I don't know how anyone could not, so be prepared. But the performances were all so perfect that I felt honored to be touched by them. Every medical student, nursing student, pastoral care professional or counselor of any sort should see this film. It is a touching view into the reality of mortality.

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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Moving,very realistic look at fighting cancer

10/10
Author: Robert Reynolds (minniemato@hotmail.com) from Tucson AZ
20 April 2001

Having known far too many people who've gone through this, I can say without hesitation that they got the details nailed down when it comes to the effects of chemotherapy. Emma Thompson does her usual marvelous job and Christopher Lloyd does a surprisingly understated turn as her doctor. But the actress playing the nurse (Audra McDonald, I believe is her name) almost steals the film. I won't be the same for quite some time. Highly recommended.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Margaret Edson's play becomes tour-de-force for Emma Thompson...

8/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
18 October 2005

A female professor--wry, canny, tough, fragile--goes through a wrenching medical experience fighting ovarian cancer. One of those cable movies that looks great on TV, but would it also play successfully on the big screen? In this case, yes, but television--being a far more intimate medium--certainly allows the viewer a bird's-eye glimpse into this story about sickness. Just because "Wit" isn't on the movie screen doesn't mean its not an all-encompassing, breathtaking drama. Director Mike Nichols hasn't been this focused in a long time (he flashes around in this woman's life with uncanny accuracy, and always returns to the present at just the right moment). The pacing of the movie is gentle but not doddering--this isn't a melodrama about pity, nor is it a medical expose or a squeamish thing with lots of needles. It is a quietly absorbing, exceptionally well-rounded chapter of a woman's life, and that woman--Emma Thompson, doing precise and brilliant work--is an embraceable subject. We let her into our hearts, making the finale that much more emotional. ***1/2 from ****

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