Dresser [1983]

Genre: Drama
It's life in the Theater with a capital T in this film adaptation of the London and Broadway hit by Ronald Harwood. Though we see other people, the film is really a duet between Sir (Albert Finney), an aging actor-manager who runs his own theater company, and Norman (Tom Courtenay), his dresser, who gets him into costume and, ultimately, into shape to go onstage each night. Sir is on his last legs; Norman is alternately his cheerleader, his parent, and his whipping boy--whatever it takes to get Sir up to performance level each night. Finney perfectly captures the vainglorious insecurity of this aging ham, whose career has never quite matched his expectations but who has to convince himself each night (with Norman's help) that a performance in the provinces is as big a deal as treading the boards in the West End. The film lives and dies, however, with Courtenay's neatly nuanced performance as Norman. No man is a hero to his valet--but Courtenay finds the affection along with the disdain that are part of this character. A great backstage tale. --Marshall Fine

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