The Whales Of August

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 11/20/87)

By Monica Sullivan

Lindsay Anderson's "The Whales Of August", features one luminous piece of work by Miss Lillian Gish, in her 95th year, and four excellent performances by Bette Davis, 79, Vincent Price, 78, Ann Sothern, also 78, and Harry Carey, Jr., 66. The script by playwright David Berry is not-so-hot, with a confusing timeline and a fuzzy psychological grasp of its elderly characters. Berry offers a younger person's view of how older people see life.

As two sisters bound by blood, finances and circumstances, Bette's blind character might well wind up a crabby whiner, but Miss Lillian would not be blamed for giving Sis a good shaking instead of serenely waiting on her hand and foot. Vincent is so irresistible as a charming scrounge who tries to horn in on this pair that when he makes his graceful exit from the plot with resignation, he takes much of the film's lightness of tone with him.

Ann Sothern, too, is seen to good effect as a well-meaning Maine friend. But Miss Lillian, defying every assumption about what a woman in her tenth decade should be, acts rings around all these outstanding pros, drawing every bit of emotion from each line, gesture and expression, in a subtle yet richly textured portrayal that's as powerful as anything she's done on film since 1912.

Copyright 1987 Monica Sullivan

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