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When patients' rights lawyer Colette Hughes goes to meet her new client, Eleanor Riese, a patient in the psychiatric unit of a San Francisco hospital, she has no idea that besides taking on an uphill legal battle to improve treatment for mental patients in hospitals, she is meeting a woman who will make it her mission to transform Colette's workaholic life.
A "worthy" film elevated by a masterful performance
Inevitably, some will avoid a film about mental illness and patients' rights for fear of it being "worthy" or "depressing". And, sure, this is undoubtedly the kind of story that used to be packaged for "disease of the week" telemovies. What elevates "55 Steps" above that lowly status is an extraordinary performance by Helena Bonham Carter as Eleanor Riese. It's not only a detailed, sensitive and touching portrayal of a woman with mental illness, but a smart, masterful exercise in calibrating a performance that balances both drama and comedy so that a difficult and potentially alienating subject becomes entertaining and ultimately uplifting. It takes an actor with incredible skill and range to pull off such a feat, and Bonham Carter is one of only a handful who could do it. That in the past few years she's also convincingly played roles as disparate as Elizabeth Taylor and Madame Thenardier demonstrates what a remarkable actor HBC has become. But this may be her best performance yet. Well worth seeing.
- Oct 27, 2018
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