The Last of the Blonde Bombshells (TV Movie 2000) Poster

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10/10
The hottest band since the Beatles?
budmassey10 March 2001
"An album of songs so old everyone thinks they're new." This film has the elusive combination of pace and mood that set some films apart from the opening moments. And why not? Towering talent from Dame Judith Dench as a widow who plays saxaphone with a street musician to help him get the songs right, to Olympia Dukakis as the merry widow living in a Scottish castle on the alimony of her many marriages, to Ian Holm as the drummer who loved all the members of a World War II all girl (more or less) swing band. But wait, there's more. Add in Leslie Caron on bass, and the incomparable Clio Laine on lead vocal, at last, and the Blonde Bombshells are the hottest band in England since the Beatles. Well, OK, not really, but this movie is a winner.

Elizabeth (Dench) spends the whole film trying to reunite the Blonde Bombshells to play at her granddaughter's school dance. And before you roll your eyes, imagine how difficult and courageous it would be for a bunch of sexegenarian women to step onstage in front of the Britney Spears generation following an act called "Open Wound."

In an age when actresses careers are over by the time they're 30, most bands' second album is a greatest hits compilation, and music more than a month old has almost no chance of airplay, it's great to see real talent, real music and a really good movie come from, where else, the BBC.

I love this movie, and I know I'll watch it many more times, and enjoy it more each time.
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Nostalgic Charm
vertigo_147 March 2004
The Blonde Bombshells were an all-British World War II jazz band/big band. It was nearly an all-girl band, too, except for Patrick (Ian Holm), the drummer. Judi Dench, a saxaphonist for the group, wishes to reunite the Blonde Bombshells for a gig at her granddaughter's school dance. The idea is slightly comparable to Penny Marshall's "A League of Their Own," except there is about even focus on both past and present whereas Marshall's film is primarily all flashback.

It is a charming little film with great performances by British (Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Leslie Caron), American (Olympia Dukakis), and Jazz heavyweights (Cleo Laine) who provide that sentimental charm and excellent humor to make this a fine film.
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10/10
Absolutely Delightful! Bought It To Watch Over & Over Again!
Philaura22 June 2001
Charming in every way, this film is perfect if you're in the mood to feel good. If you love jazz music, it is a must see. If you enjoy seeing loveable characters that make you smile, can bring a tear to your eye and swing like there's no tomorrow this film is for you. If you are looking for an intense, deep, heavy piece of art to be dissected and analyzed perhaps you best stick with something by Darren Aronofsky (in other words - reviewer djjohn lighten up, don't you know a good time when you see one!) My only complaint is that the movie was just too darn short. I guess I'll just have to watch it several more times to get my fill.
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8/10
Dench Brings a WWII Jazz Swing Band Back Together
goldie_8025 September 2007
Much to her adult children's chagrin & nearly immediately after Elizabeth's (Dame Judy Dench) husband's death, the widowed, attic tenor saxophone player becomes bent upon openly returning to her musical hobby. Now that George is dead, Elizabeth no longer has to practice playing sax in the attic. As she grows more pleased with playing in the open, Elizabeth takes a stroll along memory lane, remembering when she was a 15 year old member of a jazz swing band, "The Blonde Bombshells": supposedly, an all-girl WWII group of talented jazz swing musicians. One of the "Blonde Bombshells'" band members was a womanizing, cross-dressing drummer, Patrick (Ian Holm), with whom Elizabeth remained friends.

Both Patrick & Elizabeth's 12-year-old grand-daughter, Joanna (Millie Findlay), press Elizabeth to round up the former band members & take up performing together again; this time as a bunch of sexagenarians. Among the band members she finds are the (still foxy!) bass playing, Madeleine (Leslie Caron); Dinah (Olympia Dukakis), a trumpet playing, alcoholic & out-spoken, money-grubbing divorcée & widow living off of wealth from her many (ex)marriages in a Craigievar Scottish castle; Gwen, (real life US star jazz singer, Clio Laine), having at the lead vocal; Annie, (June Whitfield), as the Salvation Army trombone player; Betty, (the late piano player, Joan Sims), who's located training the ivory keys in a Hastings pub.

As Elizabeth, Patrick & Joanna scout the world for members of the 1940's band & try to convince them to resume performing together, Elizabeth is oft times beside herself as she learns more than she wants to know about their adult lives--including her own--while having a blast playing terrific music with the last of the living 'Blonde Bombshells'.

Amusing, nostalgic, historical, sentimental, multi-generational entertainment that is seriously fun. The actors deliver wonderful performances. Regardless of their ages, they are still Bombshell entertainers who put on quite a show. (The DVD is now out & worth owning because of the bonus features & Dolby Digital sound). Surely as a fan of any of these terrific actors the VHS is a collector's item.
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9/10
What a wonderful film!
rps-29 September 2000
No message. No symbolism. No dark undercurrents.Just a wonderful melange of music, nostalgia and good fun put to-gether by people who obviously had a great time doing it. It's a refreshing antidote to some of the pretentious garbage being ground out by the studios. Of course ANYTHING with the incomparable Judi Dench is worth watching. And Cleo Laine's brilliant jazz singing is a bonus. This lady is in the same league as the late Ella. This goes on my movie shelf to be pulled out again anytime I feel the need for a warm experience and a hearty good natured chuckle. Just a wonderful film!
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10/10
Thank you for a First Class Movie, Judi Dench and Exquisite Cast
angelltd29 September 2000
This was a wonderfully clever and entertaining movie that I shall never tire of watching many, many times. The casting was magnificent in matching up the young with the older characters. There are those of us out here who really do appreciate good actors and an intelligent story format. As for Judi Dench, she is beautiful and a gift to any kind of production in which she stars. I always make a point to see Judi Dench in all her performances. She is a superb actress and a pleasure to watch as each transformation of her character comes to life. I can only be grateful when I see such an outstanding picture for most of the motion pictures made more recently lack good characters, good scripts and good acting. The movie public needs heroes, not deviant manikins, who lack ingenuity and talent. How wonderful to see old favorites like Leslie Caron, Olympia Dukakis and Cleo Laine. I would like to see this movie win the awards it deserves. Thank you again for a tremendous night of entertainment. I congratulate the writer, director, producer, and all those who did such a fine job.
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7/10
These dames swing, man!
=G=28 February 2001
A charming little film set in the UK about the reunion of a WWII all girl (almost) swing band. A fine cast of oldsters bring lighthearted perspectives on life to this fun tale with an award winning performance by Dench and Laine's always great "pipes". Time well spent and a fun watch for all.
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Grumpy Old Men...opause
rooprect3 December 2014
OK, I know menopause ends around 55. But the title "The Postmenopause Always Rings Twice" just didn't make any sense.

"Last of the Blonde Bombshells" is a charmingly cynical (or cynically charming?) story about a band of little old ladies who attempt to stage a comeback after 50 years. But if you think this is a cutesy story about sweet, silver-haired ladies, you'd better hang on to your bonnet. The piano player swears like a sailor, the bass player talks about killing people, the alto sax is in prison for possibly doing just that, the trumpet player, when she's not hitting a high C, is flyin' high on whiskey. And oh yeah the drummer is a cross-dressing, gambling womanizer. Throw them all together with a nice, tongue-lashing script, and you've got 90 mins of fun.

The tale doesn't have a lot of thrills or spills (perhaps some Geratol pills?) so don't expect any edge-of-seat wildness. The conflict that appears in the 2nd half might even feel a little contrived for the sake of having a conflict. But the point of the film is really nostalgia, and that it pulls off quite well. Told in two timelines, modern day and flashbacks to the War, this is about the memories of the tenor sax player Elizabeth, played expertly by the always awesome Judi Dench. She reprises her signature role of the sassy septuagenarian with a singular wit, always one punchline ahead of the rest.

As she travels across UK trying to find the surviving members of her swing band, Elizabeth revisits old memories of the good old days--even though those good old days ironically involved getting bombs dropped on them and never knowing if they'd be dead by the end of the song. And on that metaphor, we begin to see how happiness can sometimes be found in unlikely settings.

I can't think of too many films like this, but if you like comedies about misfit swing bands, definitely hunt down the Japanese movie "Swing Girls". For Judi Dench fans, check out "Ladies in Lavender" and my favorite film of hers in the last 15 years, "Chocolat".
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8/10
Great cast, good moments
wisewebwoman30 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film pulls you in from the get-go because it grabs our attention by acknowledging, yeah, that this story is opening with a cliché – a funeral.

In hands other than Judi's I wouldn't have given it an 8 as this material has been done over and over again: The great reunion of a once famous, pick one please, team, army platoon, theatre group, singers, band.

But this movie never stoops to cheap sentimentalization, and when you think it is going to it swoops off in another direction. A case in point is the flowers that are sent by an admirer to Judi.

The band members are an interesting group and ride above the clichés too. One is in jail, one has found religion, one is an alkie, and one has sunk into dementia. But the joie de vivre rediscovered by Judi, ignited by her granddaughter's interest, carries us along and makes us overlook the sometimes simplistic nature of the plot.

The cast are a who's who of talent, Leslie Caron, the incomparable jazzist Cleo Laine with her amazing high notes, a last performance from Joan Sims, brava Joan, a cute as a button flirtatious Ian Holm having a ball, and Olympia Dukakis as a money-grabbing divorcée living in the highlands of Scotland with her ghillie and her whiskey, The closing scene is standard Hollywoodland fare, the judgmental children of the star converted to fun-loving supporters, the old lovers reunited, the youngsters swept up in the old timers' music. Life should be this simple. But I would watch it again, and intend to, with my own granddaughter. For in the right hands, sometimes one just loves these brazen old clichés. 8 out of 10.
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10/10
One of the best TV movies I've seen.
staceym4 September 2000
It's rare that I sit down in front of the TV specifically to watch a particular programme. It's even rarer when I actually enjoy the programme in the end, but Last of the Blonde Bombshells was one of the best movies I think I've seen.

A remarkable cast, led by Dame Judi Dench and Ian Holm, and an excellent, witty and poignant script combined to make it a truly rewarding experience. I can't really express how good I thought it was, so I won't try, I'll just say, if you get the opportunity, PLEASE SEE IT!!!! I only hope it comes out on video.
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10/10
How do they stay so young looking?
pjl-713 February 2002
Inspired at least a little by Ivy Benson & Her All Girls Orchestra, who performed throughout the war years at the Covent Garden Opera house, this film chronicles the attempts by an elderly saxophone player to reform the (almost) all girl band with whom she played as a schoolgirl towards the end of WWII. All too brief flashbacks to the original band on stage bring us some wonderful music, and help to fill in the background to the band members, and in particular to the girls' relationships with the lone male member - their transvestite drummer (who is trying to dodge the call-up).

Ian Holm ("Lord of The Rings", "Cromwell and Fairfax") and Judi Dench turn in superb leading performances as the recently widowed Elizabeth, and the conniving, womanizing Patrick, the drummer. The late Joan Sims is perfect as the band's leader, now playing bar piano at the sea-side, and June Whitfield glows as the Salvation Army trombone player. Cameo appearances by other greats like Cleo Laine, Leslie Caron, Olympia Dukakis and Billie Whitelaw make this an unforgettable experience. The movie is a romp down memory lane, with an all star cast of what ought, by all rights, to be a bunch of over-the-hill actresses. All I can say is, I hope I look as good at their age! Leslie Caron, in particular, is still an incredible fox, at 69 years of age. She certainly still gets my pulse going! As I watched it, I was mentally berating the casting director for not using women of the appropriate age. Afterwards, I looked these girls up, and discovered that every one of them is old enough to have been performing in the London of 1944 (although this might be a bit of a stretch for Judi Dench).

If you like swing bands, thrive on nostalgia, or just want to see how good a woman can manage look with almost three quarters of a century behind her, don't miss this film.
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A great sentimental (but not too weepy) ensemble piece, with great music to boot
bneyman16 December 2002
Fans of Steel Magnolias should give this one a look. All the casting is just about perfect, and the story moves forward without a single dull moment or false note. The women (Dench, Caron, Dukakis, Laine, Whitelaw, Whitfield, Sims, et al) are all fun to watch -- and Ian Holm does a fine job as the aging Lothario. And, by the way, the jazz and swing music that forms the backbone of the story is terrific -- expecially the finale with Cleo Laine cutting loose as only she can.
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10/10
Absolutely delightful
Craigievar24 September 2001
I'm so glad I happened to see this video at the store. I was looking for some happy movies and this one turned out to be a true gem. I loved that the movie, a love story of sorts, wasn't about some beautiful twenty-somethings; rather, it's a story of some beautiful sixty-somethings, who used used to be twenty-somethings. It's a good, well written, and wonderfully acted story with fabulous WWII band music thrown in as well. It's also got a delightful surprise in it for Scottish castle lovers. It left me smiling and ready to watch it again, which I did a couple more times before I turned it in. I highly recommend it.
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9/10
Sheer delight from an amazing group of character actors - and music too!
Crispin-326 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Possible spoilers re: late-appearing cameos

Seldom does one see so many fine & memorable character actors (almost entirely actresses to be precise) in one film. Even though a few only appear for cameos, each one is a gem. The British do this mix of comedy and real-life pathos better than anyone IMO, so it is no surprise that most of the actors are Brits.

The music is great; no doubt much had to be dubbed (does Leslie Caron *really* play the bass so well? maybe - who knew?) But Clio Lane was unmistakably herself - her warm visceral sound still turns my crank like few other jazz singers.

As an aging musician myself, not quite as old and certainly not in that class of course, it was a heartening film as well -- a great film for anyone whose wondering if they're past it in their profession or avocation whatever it may be. And of course a great celebration of the life of the stage.

I missed a little of the opening, but a provisional 9/10 -- and it certainly makes we want to see the whole thing.
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Absolute Winner
StanTheMan21 July 2001
If you're young, young at heart, or simply love Swing music, this film will make you feel good about being that way. If you were around in the USA or England during the late 1930s or early 1940s, this film is one of the best you will ever see!
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10/10
Amazing
Lord_of_the_Manor22 July 2003
This film was in one word amazing! I have only seen it twice and have been hunting it everywhere. A beautiful ensemble of older screen gems who still have that energy. Judy Denchs ability to carry the whole film was amazing. Her subtle chemistry with the knight in stolen armour was great
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Loved it, Loved it, Loved it
Ted_E_Bare1 May 2002
I have seen the Last of the Blonde Bombshells a few times now and I have loved it every time. It has a great story with greater performers giving great performances and of course, great music. This movie had it all, drama, romance, comedy and more. See it!!!
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8/10
Still Crazy meets The Andrews Sisters
Melm29 August 2000
This is a quirky movie that the Brits do so well. Low budget, cameo type roles, well executed. The story is a little weak, a recently widowed Judi Dench decides to round up the "blonde bombshells' a all (well almost all) girl band who performed during the war in London. The obligatory son/daughter who thinks she's gone potty. I did like the way the movie lets young people see that they don't have a monopoly on feelings, love and even lust! That the "old wrinklies" can have a good laugh too. Judi Dench was superb as always, a pity we didn't get to see more of the other "blonde bombeshells, the end was a little rushed I thought. I kept thinking as I watched that David Jason would have made an even better Patrick than Ian Holm, although he was quite adequate as the "transvestite" drummer. All in all a cheery movie well worth a night in with the girls :)
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8/10
I'm so glad I watched it!
unclepete3 September 2000
This has just been broadcast on BBC and I am absolutely delighted to have seen it. As the credits rolled, the cast alone made certain that I would give it a go. After just five minutes I was completely immersed in this beautiful film.

Yes it was formulaic and predictable, but that somehow added to it's charm. The flashbacks to the forties were wonderfully placed and captured a feeling equalled in few productions.

A real feel-good film, punctuated throughout with outstanding music. When it's released, I'll buy it!
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10/10
Alan Plater does it again
belroth7 September 2000
Superb cast, more please!

If you can catch just about anything else written by Plater (or starring these wonderful actors). For anyone who doesn't know Plater has a real feeling for jazz, my recommendation is to see the 'Beiderbecke' trilogy whenever you can.

"There's three kinds of jazz - Hot, Cool and 'What time does the tune start?'"
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5/10
Mere nostalgia, too cheap for these stars
Goingbegging27 July 2019
Warning: Spoilers
If you're just wanting another rendering of 'Chattanooga Choo-choo' or 'Taking a Chance on Love', you don't need to waste Judi Dench, Cleo Laine or Ian Holm on such cheap fare.

It's basically a 'Where are they now?' story about the reunion of a wartime girl band, The Blonde Bombshells, who've gone their very different ways, and whom the Judi character wants to present at her grand-daughter's school dance.

As for how they re-convene after fifty years, it all looks rather contrived. The recently widowed Judi wants to go back to playing the saxophone, and finds herself busking in the street, where the one (transvestite) male member of the group just happens to turn up. Played by Ian Holm, this nauseating character is a bankrupt car-thief who dodged the war by pretending to be a woman, but likes to show off his Military Cross, which he had simply acquired from a gutter drunk. But he plays the drums well enough to be accepted by the team, and seduces all of them, except Judi.

Along the way, we get Olympia Dukakis on fine form as a trumpeter and vocalist, June Whitfield as a Salvation Army bandleader, apparently too holy to play jazz (the devil's music), and our last-ever glimpse of Joan Sims ("The more we rehearse, the worse we sound!"), only months before her sad, lonely alcoholic death. One of the few good touches is the choice of Romola Garai as a very realistic Judi when young.

Sure enough Judi marries the Ian Holm character at last, against the wishes of her family, and reminds the school audience that the band-members are not old people, they're just people who've been young for rather a long time - 'Blonde Bombshells of the Third Age'.

Yik.
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7/10
Sentimental nonsense for Judi Dench, with Ian Holm and some great swing numbers in support
Terrell-413 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"I hate those stories that begin with a funeral, but I'm afraid this one begins the day we buried George. Not that we buried him. In the interests of the environment we had him incinerated." So speaks Elizabeth (Judi Dench), George's widow. She's led a comfortable, predictable life with George. She has two grown children and a 12-year-old grandchild. But when she was 15 and in school, in the midst of World War II, she played the sax at night in an all-girl (almost all-girl) band called The Blonde Bombshells. The 'almost" was because the drummer was Patrick, a charming rogue who had no desire to fight and possibly be killed. With a yellow wig, a long red dress and makeup, Patrick looked almost as good as the others.

One afternoon after the funeral, Elizabeth finds herself in the attic of her home playing the sax she had put away. She used to practice, but only when George was out of the house on the golf course. Then two things happen. Her granddaughter, amazed at how good Elizabeth is, starts talking about how the Blonde Bombshells could be reunited and play at her school dance. Then Elizabeth encounters Patrick (Ian Holm), now just as much an aging oldster as Elizabeth, and just as much attracted to her as he was more than 50 years ago. (He also was attracted to all the other members of the Bombshells. The roses that would appear on his bass drum had a special meaning that attested to his affection.) Well, why not see if the other band members can be located, and why not give it a shot for a reunion performance at her granddaughter's school?

Why not? One member of the band is gaga. One is dead. One is in jail. One has found salvation with the Salvation Army. One they can find no trace of. One is last known to be in the States. One is a professional singer and has no intention of doing a school gig, even for a reunion. But one by one Elizabeth and Patrick bring together the surviving members of the Bombshells. We don't know if enough of them can be found. The rehearsals more often than not turn into off-key shambles. While they do this, we share Elizabeth's flashbacks of what life was like when she and Patrick were young in war-time London, playing in the band while the bombs were falling. As terrible as it was, it was the most exciting time of their lives. When the night of Elizabeth's granddaughter's dance arrives, of course, the Blonde Bombshells, filled with jitters and renewed friendship, blow the youngsters away. Afterwards, Elizabeth informs us that the Bombshells are continuing to play at gigs, and that she and Patrick have no plans to get married...but see nothing wrong with a little fooling around.

This is sentimental hogwash, expertly done, and not bad at all. What makes it work are the skill and charm of Judi Dench and Ian Holm. When I hear the term, "warm-hearted comedy," I usually cringe unless the actors are first-rate. Dench and Holm are wonders to watch as they take something as light-weight and predictable as this script and turn it into something that charms us. Then there's the "old broad" gambit that's fun if you remember the old broads. Among the Blonde Bombshells are Leslie Caron, Joan Sims, Olympia Dukakis, Billie Whitelaw and Cleo Laine. Laine sings three numbers and almost over-balances the production. She is so strong and unique a jazz talent that while she's singing the program nearly becomes the Cleo Laine Show. Another attractive feature is the number of great WWII songs played in strong swing.
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10/10
Toe-tapping fun and important lessons about life
Cincy3 September 2000
For persons of a certain age, W.W. II was the defining time of their lives, and whatever followed could never compare. As the movie opens, a recently widowed but still lively woman (Judi Dench) hears a street musician gamely attempting to play the classic song, "Stardust."

This recalls her memories of when she played in an almost all-girl band that entertained between bomb raids during the War. The drummer, Patrick (Ian Holm), happily avoided the draft and enjoyed the ladies.

Patrick and Dench's character meet and decide to reunite the band, which takes them on a series of mini-adventures. Despite ups and downs, the band does reunite and makes a successful reappearance.

The movie is exquisitely written and understated, with superb performances from all involved. The characters are well-developed and all people who have not quit living, despite their years. And there's all that glorious old swing music!

This isn't the pontification of Steven Spielberg, but a serious movie nevertheless. The War affected everyone and that lesson is not forgotten in a movie that isn't afraid to entertain as it teaches.
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10/10
wonderful
malinia1426 August 2000
How can you resist watching a film with some swing? It's a delightful little film full of wonderful actors and a wonderful story line. Too bad they don't tour out here...I'd go see them. See it if for no other reason than to hear some good music.
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7/10
Perfect for jazz lovers
HotToastyRag7 March 2021
This HBO movie is a little lighthearted, but it serves a valuable purpose: it's never too late to do what you want to do. After her husband's funeral, Judi Dench feels a little restricted by her children. She fondly remembers her time playing saxophone in an all-girls band entertaining the troops during WWII and decides to take up her music again. She joins up with a street guitarist and plays for fun, and soon she gets recognized by an old friend, Ian Holm. He used to play the drums (in drag) in the Blonde Bombshells band, and he's harbored a decades-long crush on Judi. As he courts her with roses and long drives in the country, the idea comes to them that perhaps they could track down the other members of the band and form a reunion.

I don't usually like flashbacks in a story, but they were very tasteful and timely in this movie. You wanted to learn more, and when it was necessary, you did. I loved the relationship and rapport between Judi and Ian; I'm not used to seeing him in a modern, regular guy role! The guest stars of the other ladies were a bit disappointing, though. Olympia Dukakis, sporting a very obvious wig, basically reincarnated her Moonstruck persona and called it a day. Joan Sims, the bandleader, was given very little screen time and personality development. Leslie Caron was only given about five minutes of screen time, and while she looked stunningly beautiful, she wasn't given anything to do. Cleo Laine fans will be happy though, since she gets to sing a couple of songs and show off her range.

I'll give this warning: if you don't like jazz music, don't watch this movie. It's riddled with upbeat 1940s tunes, so jazz lovers will really appreciate it. My dad loves jazz and Judi Dench, so this was pretty much his favorite movie ever. If you're not in the mood to absolutely love it, you'll probably think it's mediocre. It's a cute, simple story, but it doesn't delve very deep.
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