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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Coffee, Tea or Me

Notes on a Scandal on IMDb

Plot Overview

woman teacherCatsbinderOld maid ("bitter old virgin,") history teacher Barbara Covett (Dame Judi Dench) is facing retirement a year off and missing her special friend Jennifer Dodd who moved away after last term and got engaged. She now has no confi­dantes save her old cat Portia about to be put down and her multi-volume personal journal she's kept since child­hood … to the neglect of her sweet sister. This “battle ax” is unpopular with staff and students alike. Now she's got “such a dread of ending my days alone.

apple and booksNewly minted art teacher Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) has fait une sensation, as the French say. Every­body wants to make her acquaintance. Barbara puts her down as, “”the wispy novice. Is she a sphinx or simply stupid? Art­fully dishevelled today. The tweedy tramp coat is an abhorrence. It seems to say ‘I'm just like you.’ But clearly she's not. A fey person, I suspect. This is in contrast to the students who adhere to a uniform dress code.

Welcomeapplying makeupthree friendsdinnerBarbara helps Sheba break up a play­ground squabble, which results in an invitation to join her and some colleagues after work for tea. This in turn leads to an invitation to a family dinner. A hopeful Barbara “poshes up,” puts her best foot forward, and begins a friend­ship with Sheba. Alas that the latter harbors some larceny in her bones resulting in Barbara discovering her in a compromising position with a fifteen-year-old student Steven Connolly (Andrew Simpson.) Does she turn her in, ruining their friend­ship, or will she deal with it privately?


College NewsMarriage Counselingteach
and pupil

lectureMethodology is importantBack in her halcyon days in swinging London, Sheba at twenty had a tryst with her professor Richard Hart (Bill Nighy) who left his wife & family for her. They got married and had a “non-stop f_ck fest.” Eventually the lust died and they settled into a quotidian marriage. They had two children—one of them special needs. Now the dad's a semi-retired lecturer and the mom's become a school teacher. A sly tenth year student is coming on to her. Sheba confesses to her friend, "I hadn't been pursued like this for years … I knew it was wrong, and immoral, and completely ridiculous, but, I don't know. I just allowed it to happen."

coffee timeHer course was a typical one charted by, (Prov. 30:20) “Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.” The movie at the early tea even displays the metaphorical cream mustache to be wiped off, and later the same with a milk mustache on her new friend Annabelle. There's also the lady's caution, “Lasagna seems to disagree with my bowels; I'll ask for a small portion.” Later she'll upchuck in the bath­room but that's due to tension. And there's also the cat puke to wipe up.

This proverb has to do with rationalization; instead of pursuing a dainty analysis to get a correct result, the tart chomps through it bite after bite, chew, chew, chew. She ruminates on it as it were, and then in a flourish there's the result, voilà, she's guiltless. Sheba spells it out:

This is going to sound sick, but something in me felt … entitled. You know, I've been good all my adult life. I've been a decent wife, a dutiful mother coping with Ben. This voice inside me kept saying “Why shouldn't you be bad, why shouldn't you transgress? I mean, you've earned the right.”
A more universal examination of rationalization in the same vein was given by Henry Miller in a chronicle:
[W]hat I choose to eat [is] more important than the eater, each one eating the other and consequently eating, the verb, ruler of the roost. In the act of eating the host is violated and justice defeated temporarily. The plate and what's on it, through the predatory power of the intestinal apparatus, commands attention and unifies the spirit, first hypnotizing it, then slowly swallowing it, then masticating it, then absorbing it. The spiritual part of the being passes off like a scum, leaving absolutely no evidence of its passage, vanishes. Vanishes even more completely than a point in space after a mathematical discourse. The fever, which may return tomorrow, bears the same relation to life as the mercury in a thermometer bears to heat, which is what was to be proved and thus consecrates the meat­balls and spaghetti. To chew while thousands chew, each chew an act of murder, gives the necessary social cast from which you look out the window and see that every human kind can be slaughtered justly, or maimed, or starved, or tortured because while chewing, the mere advantage of sitting in a chair with clothes on, wiping the mouth with a napkin, enables you to comprehend what the wisest men have never been able to comprehend, namely that there is no other way of life possible. (101)

discipleshipBible in handschool cafeteriaRationalizations tend to be circular and invincible. When lunch­room gossip about his wife catches up to Richard, he complains, “I knew who you were when we met. You were young. I knew it might get tough, but I was prepared. You're a good mother, but at times you've been a f_cking lousy wife. Why didn't you come to me? You could have told me how lonely you were. You never trusted me to help you. I'm not saying I was so f_cking fabulous, but I was here.” Barbara is more intense, “Judas had the dignity to hang him­self, but only according to Matthew, the most sentimental of the apostles.” The police might also have their say, she could get up to two years.

Production Values

Nostradamus picturestockings” was directed by Richard Eyre. It was written by Patrick Marber and Zöe Heller based more or less on the latter's 2003 novel. It stars Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Andrew Simpson. Dench and Blanchett are first rate. The actors being British are all accomplished Thespians. Kudos to Max Lewis who played son Ben with Down's Syndrome. His part was eminently tailored for a natural portrayal. Making him a wizard in the Christmas pageant was a stroke of genius; his features seemed to mark him as being touched by the gods. Andrew Simpson was an actual 16-year-old actor playing fifteen-year-old Steven Connolly.

MPAA rated it R for language and some aberrant sexual content. Its [British] profanity includes: piss, shit, prick, Christ, dickhead & arsehole. C_nt & f_ck are used once and twelve times respectively, the former being more prominent in British & Australian speech than American. Runtime is 1½ hours.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

rejectThis one is a mixture of obsessions and duties; it takes the breath away. It is very well done over­all, but the material itself may stick in one's craw. Only for the brave.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Girlie action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: For serious viewing. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quotation from the Authorized Version. Pub. 1611. Rev. 1769. Software.

Miller, Henry. Tropic of Capricorn. Copyright © 1961, Grove Press Inc., New York: Grove Press. Print.