The Dresser (2015)

*. I came to this movie after watching the 1983 Peter Yates version starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, but also after watching director Richard Eyre’s 2018 adaptation of King Lear with Anthony Hopkins as Lear and Emily Watson (Her Ladyship/Pussy) playing Regan. Since The Dresser is a play that takes place in the wings of a performance of King Lear this seemed more than coincidental, but I don’t know how planned it actually was.
*. I also don’t know how much I’d want to lean on the parallel between King Lear and what’s going on off-stage. Yes, Sir is like Lear in some ways: an elderly tyrant losing his marbles as he loses control of everything else around him. Is Norman the Fool though, as Ian McKellen thought? I mean, there is a real fellow playing the Fool, and it’s a bigger part in this movie than in the 1983 movie. He’s also Edward Fox, who charmingly was in the earlier film as well playing a different character.
*. If Sir is Lear he is also, in this production, more like a modern Lear. That is, less an Old Testament prophet/king than an old man suffering from dementia. This is a lot more obvious in this version than it was in Yates’s film, in large part because Hopkins is an old man (Finney was only 47, so his breakdown never made a lot of sense). I think this production does a good job capturing the pathos of aging and the slide into paranoia, self-pity, and dementia, which is just one of the many sad charms it holds.

*. It’s very much more a studio production, a film of a play, and it actually plays better for it. That’s not something I say very often, but the thing is this isn’t a play that gains anything by being taken outdoors. It’s a small group of people talking in small rooms. Eyre lets them work.
*. And work they do. You’re watching a pair of heavyweights here in Sir Anthony and Sir Ian and they don’t disappoint. McKellen in particular is perfectly on, leaving us to wonder how well Norman, who knows everyone else so well (Ducky!) actually knows himself. He also plays Norman in a far more restrained manner than Courtenay, meaning less flamboyantly gay. Courtenay himself isn’t (as far as I know) gay, and McKellen is, so it’s interesting to compare the two performances in that respect, making me think of the cross-casting in Strangers on a Train.
*. The 1983 version was more of a two-hander. The supporting players get a lot more room here. Or perhaps it just seems that way. I didn’t note their screen time, but Her Ladyship and Madge (Sarah Lancashire, stolid and vulnerable) seem much larger characters.
*. In sum, a production I enjoyed more, and thought much better than, the first version. This isn’t to take anything away from that movie. Courtenay’s performance is powerful in a different way and it strikes some notes a little stronger. But this adaptation strikes me as both quieter, more evocative of its vanished world, and more moving. Though perhaps everyone has their own Dresser and this just suits me better. Fans of the play, and these actors, will want to judge for themselves.

41 thoughts on “The Dresser (2015)

      1. Alex Good Post author

        Hmmmm. This sounds suspiciously like when my father used to say “I wasn’t asleep, I was just closing my eyes and resting for a bit.”


        Sigh. I wouldn’t know. I’ve met Emily Watson and none of these terms came up. Her character is listed as Her Ladyship on imdb.

        There’s a really erudite piece on Donald Wolfit on my popular website from yesterday; might be a good opportunity for your readers to learn something or at least see what paragraphs look like…..

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Sure you’ve met Em. *sigh*
        Her character is called Her Ladyship by the commoners, but Sir calls her Pussy.
        Re: Don Wolfit (I called him Don when we hoisted a few pints). Fraggle and I discussed yesterday how you’re doing a great job as sidekick following in my footsteps.


        Fraggle humours your delusions, old man, but few share them. Certainly, you and Wolfit are both eccentric, unlovable, hysterical figures that belong in the distant past, I’ll give you that sunshine.

        I’m sure people call you Your Ladyship, but most of us know the correct terms for you is Pussy….ahahahahhahaha!

      4. Alex Good Post author

        Some people might think it sad, watching you slide into manic senility like this, but I think it’s nice you have such a rich fantasy life. I mean, Pussy was one of the stuffed animals at your birthday party wasn’t she? I’ll bet she had a good time too!


        I’m not sure what this garbled message is meant to imply. The list of stuffed animals at my birthday party is not revealed to the public.

        Wasn’t a fan of the Hopkins’ Lear on tv.

      6. Alex Good Post author

        The Lear was OK. I don’t know what sort of thing Hopkins has been in that you’d like. Ummm, didn’t he play Odin in the Thor movies? You like that stuff don’t you? Easier than Shakespeare anyway.

      7. Alex Good Post author

        Was that at Trigger University? Hate to think what distinguished you.
        Just going out to do bins with Tony now. I’ll ask him if he’s planning on doing any more superhero movies for you.


        Trash-humping fantasist, you are. Doubt Tony Hopkins is there at all. Deluded.

        Some of us get invited back to our alma maters, not getting a restraining order like your kindergarten did against you….

  1. Bookstooge

    This remake is even less appealing to me than the version you addressed yesterday. But you like it more.
    Isn’t it odd how things hit, or miss, with people?

    1. Alex Good Post author

      This is pretty good, but it’s quieter. Might not be your thing though. Definitely different strokes for different folks, and a lot depends on what you’re in the mood for at a particular time.

      1. Over-The-Shoulder

        “Nope” is the big guns. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “an important or powerful person.” Nope is the guy you bring in when the going gets tough.

        Evading the question, eh? What are you hiding, Mr Good? Six o’clock bed time, eh? Eh? Eh!

      2. Alex Good Post author

        You’re dropping a Nope on The Dresser? What do I have to do to sell you guys on culture?

        6 pm is the middle of the night around here. Isn’t it midnight now in Otsyland?

      3. Over-The-Shoulder

        I’m very happy to give culture a big Nope.
        Do you know what Alexander Pope once said? “We ought to blame the culture, not the soil.” I couldn’t agree more.

        It’s never midnight in Otsyland! Or is it always midnight? I’ll leave that for my proud citizens to decide. But, unfortunately, it’s not midnight – it is exactly 22:41. One hour and nineteen minutes! So exciting!

        Here’s a question: do you wake up by an alarm, or naturally? Is it your body clock willing you to wake up early? Or, if it’s an alarm, what sound rises you for every new day?

      4. Alex Good Post author

        Well, without going into any further details young Padawan, when a guy gets to a certain age there is no difficulty in getting up at all hours. No need of an alarm.

      5. Alex Good Post author

        Well you’re going to learn more here than from that Scottish hobgoblin. Though he could probably teach us something about making scones.

      6. Over-The-Shoulder

        Oh, God, well of course. I couldn’t think of anything worse. I pity that horse of his that has to hear his rambling, maniacal mutterings everyday. Probably very deeply scarred. And, so far, he has shown us no proof of his scone making ability! I’m still waiting for my batch. Oatmeal, he said. Experimental, he said. Pfft. Are you still going ahead with your breakfast show?

      7. Alex Good Post author

        You’re right. He probably can’t even make scones. I’m guessing he just toasts a couple of Pop Tarts. Do you think he has a horse? He could just be making everything up. I see what I do as a kind of therapy. Maybe even get him to watch some better movies, improve his writing skills. I’m all about helping people.

      8. Over-The-Shoulder

        Do they have Pop Tarts in Scotland? It’s pretty much a wasteland up there. It’s interesting to see for our current generation what a possible apocalypse in the future could look like.

        No idea if he has a horse. He’s an unreliable narrator if I’ve ever seen one. You do a great thing, Alex, helping real people with real problems, with them every step of the way. His only other source of contact with the outside world is at his library, and even then that’s with plastic dinosaurs. Your incredibly therapeutic methods are important in these turbulent times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.