Agatha (1979) / Drama-Mystery
MPAA Rated: PG for brief nudity and smoking (probably PG-13 today)
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Vanessa Redgrave, Dustin Hoffman, Timothy Dalton, Helen Morse, Celia Gregory
Director: Michael Apted
Screenplay: Kathleen Tynan, Arthur Hopcraft
Review published November 20, 2001
The great mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for eleven days and cause quite a hubbub of speculation in the press of her day. She was found in a sanitarium using the name of her husband's mistress. Although the reasons and events which led to this is still a mystery, Agatha attempts to portray a fictional theory as to what happened during that time based on certain clues and, more likely, a fanciful imagination.
Some may scoff at the film's lack of authenticity in its subject, but even taken as fiction, this is an interesting character study of a very sad and shy woman played with perfection by Redgrave (Mission: Impossible, Deep Impact). The Oscar-nominated costumes, excellent sense of the period and realistic lighting all add to the atmosphere of realism that helps Agatha succeed in being interesting as a period piece as well as a drama.
Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, Rain Man) may be somewhat miscast as the American columnist that becomes enchanted by Christie enough to chase her around the sanitarium for days, but he does give us a familiarity we can cling to. Timothy Dalton (Flash Gordon, The Living Daylights) is also very convincing as the cold-hearted husband who wants a divorce from the woman he doesn't love (and has no qualms saying so.)
Although it has subject matter of limited appeal and is definitely not for everyone, fans of period pieces and especially of Redgrave should be entertained for the duration.
©2001 Vince Leo