Tell Me a Riddle (1980) Poster

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Tell Me a Riddle ranks as one of the best films to have ever come out of Hollywood
bkshovel6 December 2006
Tell Me A Riddle is, in my estimation, one of if not the best film to have ever come out of Hollywood. As one of the irredeemable 'males' who are responsive only to brute force, jump cuts, and endless blow-ups, I would like to say 'not fair'. Any woman who cannot take her man to this film is clearly a woman who has selected as her partner a desensitized, muscle-headed oaf. The pitiable thing is that Hollywood is capable of producing masterpieces but, by force of the profit motive, seldom bothers and, when it does bother, as in the case of Tell Me A Riddle, the film is given minimum distribution and quickly disappears from the rental and retail shelves as well as the television movie channels.
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Kedrova is magnificent!
aromatic-28 October 2001
Lila Kedrova is stupendous in as magnificent a performance as I have ever seen an elderly actress give on the screen. Douglas and Adams are also terrific as Kedrova's husband and estranged daughter respectively, but it is Kedrova who elevates this last-journey-before-I-die soaper far above its roots. The pacing is a tad slow, but the terrific photography, sensitive score, and magnificent performances more than make up for any shortcomings.

Warning, the first time I saw it, the male friend who was with me hated it, and wanted to walk out. When I recently re-watched it off cable, a male colleague called it "incredibly boring." Since I and every other woman I know who saw it loved it, I conclude that most men I know don't really get the subtleties of what was truly going on. Because Lila's relationships with her husband and daughter are reflected against the prism of her life, the director's artistic brilliance needs to be absorbed rather than spoon-fed. So my advice to other women is to see this one alone or with another woman. Otherwise, you may find yourself constantly being nagged to put on something with some action in it.

That being said, this is a terrific and sensitive movie. Enjoy it.
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Re-living life as hers begins to melt in front of her loved ones.
mark.waltz21 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
You could definitely write a movie of the life of the sweet faced Lila Kedrova, all but forgotten outside of a few films and stage appearances. There's something tragic yet triumphant hidden inside the mask of this so real lady, a hero through shear survival and a legacy worthy of re-discovery.

At only 62, she plays a seemingly much older character, facing her mortality with quiet love, yet so ready for that eternal rest. Having found love late in life and dying happily even with false illusions on "Zorba", she is now a long-married woman on one last quest with husband Melvyn Douglas, facing old haunting memories yet trying to retain some amount of self as her mind slips further away from the current world. Douglas, on the verge of his own real- life mortality, had a career upswing with a recent Oscar, going out with grace after a six decade film and stage career.

A woman's heart carries many secrets a wise lady once said, and in the case of Kedrova's quietly wise Eva, there's a ton of them. Eva lets the audience into her soul, showing us the horrors of her youth, and there is definitely a correlation between her reaction to the declining years and her haunting memories. Not wanting to infringe on her overly concerned children, Kedrova has a breakdown of sorts when she learns of Douglas's deception to get her out of the house that they can no longer take care of. Of the supporting cast, Brooke Adams is the only familiar name, playing their troubled daughter, but it is 80 year old Lili Valenti as an old friend of Kedrova's who makes the most of the smaller parts.

Difficult to watch from the perspective of having an aging mother of my own, I saw this as the themes of aging, desperation for independence yet a view of a life that can only be avoided by an early death. Even though she looks much younger than Douglas, Kedrova manages to convince me that she's much older, sort of a curse on itself that time can affect the mind and body even though the physical appears to be less than what it is. The hints of her past through flashbacks could very well be a movie of its own. Excellent heart-felt direction by the Oscar winning actress Lee Grant makes this a definite text to study for film scholars because the themes are so rich and filled with a live for the subject at hand. Made in the same time frame as "On Golden Pond", it is entirely different, almost even more poignant in some ways, and certainly re-affirming of what the last years of life should be all about.
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Maudlin and Unbelievable
gf170118 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Maudlin, saccharine, and unbelievable, with some excruciatingly bad acting and emoting. It begins with an estranged elderly couple, the husband nasty and acerbic, the wife frail, timid, and losing touch with reality. We then meet some of their adult children (see: bad acting and emoting), who make one want to gag and run from the room. Throughout, we get schmaltzy flashbacks to the couple's dynamic youth in old Russia. Then the wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, nobody tells her what's wrong, and the family ships the cancer-ridden woman and her husband across the country to stay with relatives and decline far away from home (see: unbelievable). If you like maple syrup cookies, covered with powdered sugar and honey, this might be a movie for you. Otherwise, I say skip it.
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