Directed by: Ronald Neame
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Studio: Acorn Media
Region: Region 2
Released: 2 August 2010
Cat No: AV9779
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The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Also available on DVD
Maggie Smith stars as the titular Edinburgh schoolmistress, a role for which she received a Best Actress Oscar. Miss Jean Brodie nurtures... Read More
Films that focus upon schoolteachers can be very sentimental; films such as Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dead Poets Society and Mona Lisa Smile all pay soppy tribute to the wonder that is the inspiring teacher. In the 1960s, however, some films questioned the image of the teacher; most famously, Lindsay Anderson’s If… depicted an anarchic view of the pedagogy, culminating in a massacre. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie continues this trend, depicting a devastating picture of how inappropriate education can damage those who learn from it.
Maggie Smith plays the eponymous protagonist, a Scottish teacher at a school for girls in the 1930s. Her love of art and beauty blinds her to the grim realities in the world, and she misguidedly praises the fascists out of her passion for the romantic vision she has of the Mediterranean countries. She imparts her views to her clique of girls who follow her around, lost in admiration for the eccentric teacher. However, when one of these girls dec ides to join the war effort and fight for Franco, the teacher is forced to confront the effects of her beliefs.
Smith, who rarely gets the great parts she deserves in films, gives the best cinematic performance of her career; at the start of the film, her charisma is incredible, and the audience can fully understand why her girls are so enamoured of her friendship, especially when she is compared to the stuffy, disapproving teachers around her. By the end of the film, however, when Jean Brodie starts having moments of self-doubt, Smith brings out all the pathos of this naïve woman, and the mood darkens from frivolous comedy to moving character study.
All of the cast are terrific (especially Celia Johnson in a rare film role as the fearsome headmistress), and although an appallingly inappropriate love song called “Jean” blares out over the end credits, it would take much more to ruin this film.