Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke, Kari Matchett, Zachary Bennett, Gabrielle Rose, Billy MacLellan, Marthe Bernard, Lawrence Barry, Greg Malone, David Feehan
Written by: Sherry White
Directed by: Aisling Walsh
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some thematic content and brief sexuality
Running Time: 115
Date: 06/16/2017

Maudie (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Paint and Gain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sally Hawkins turns in a delightful performance as real-life arthritic painter Maud Lewis (1903-1970), carrying a biographical movie that's lovely and gentle without ever becoming soft or sentimental.

In Maudie, the arthritic Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) is living in Nova Scotia with her selfish aunt, and is shocked to learn that her money-loving brother has sold their family home. She answers an ad to become a housekeeper for a local fish peddler, Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), and, after a rocky start, she starts to fit in. He allows her to begin painting flowers and birds on the walls of the small home.

A customer sees the paintings and, later, asks to buy some little postcards that Maud has made. This leads to widespread success; even Vice President Richard Nixon buys a painting in the 1950s. Finally, Maud and Everett decide to marry, but the extra attention starts to rankle the inarticulate loner, causing tension in the house. Eventually, they discover that happiness has been within reach all along.

Ethan Hawke matches her as the inarticulate loner Everett Lewis who frequently loses his patience, but maintains endless reservoirs of encouragement and devotion for Maud. Maudie comes with many of the typical biopic trappings, especially the problem of being set over the course of several decades with the actors becoming increasingly slathered in age makeup.

Likewise, while the few supporting characters serve a purpose, they don't always come to life. However, Irish director Aisling Walsh avoids making huge, unfathomable leaps in time and devotes her camera to small moments. She stays with characters rather than focusing on highlights and events.

Best of all, she manages to mirror the themes of Maud's paintings, using windows and doorways as frames, mirroring colors of paint to the things of real life, and watching as the seasons pass, each highlighting its own particular kind of beauty.

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