sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 22, 2005

review: warm springs
posted by soe 1:33 pm

Thanks to a lucky entry into Entertainment Weekly‘s contest, Rudi and I headed up to Mazza Gallery last night for a sneak preview of HBO’s Warm Springs, a new biopic focusing on the time between FDR’s polio infection and his return to politics at the Democratic National Convention in 1928.

Everyone knows FDR was afflicted later in life with polio and went on to become president anyway. What is less known is how he took his self-absorption with his illness (his own physical therapy in Warm Springs, Ga., was unsuccessful at improving his lower body strength) and turned it into compassion for others similarly afflicted. After people flocked to the dilapidated resort upon hearing news that he had made some progress towards recovery, he eventually bought the resort and turned it into a physical therapy center for paraplegics.

I like FDR and Eleanor, which was the reason I entered the contest. Neither Kenneth Branaugh nor Cynthia Nixon bowl me over generally, so I was more interested in the story than their depictions of the storied couple.

Pleasantly, I was impressed with both portrayals. Branaugh was understated as the most potent Democrat in history and played his character as a combination of pampered rich boy, adept politician, and self-absorbed patient. Nixon was incredible as Eleanor. When you first looked at her, you saw the Sex in the City beauty, but quickly that faded into a general impression of a woman who was coming into her own — and you just saw Eleanor. I would not be surprised if this earns Nixon an Emmy nomination.

The supporting cast really brought the movie together. Character actor David Paymer played real-life political mover and shaker Louis Howe. Kathy Bates took her turn as a physical therapist. Other lesser-known or first-time actors shone as patients and staff at Warm Springs.

My one complaint was I thought they glossed over Missy LeHand’s role in FDR’s life. She appears in one brief scene in Warm Springs, but I believe she remained there with FDR during his whole stay. I appreciate that their relationship — whatever it might have been — complicates the story, but in the interest of suggesting this is history, I think she might have appeared more often in the movie’s background without overshadowing the narrative.

The movie airs on HBO on April 30.

Category: arts. There is/are Comments Off on review: warm springs.