Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Movie Review; Eloise at the Plaza

This made for TV movie is based on the main character of the classic book series about Eloise, in particular Eloise at the Plaza. Eloise was born into being one day in1948 when her creator, Kay Thompson late for work was asked;
“Who do you think you are? Coming here five minutes late.”
To which she responded with an airy, childish voice: ” I am Eloise. I am six.” From this statement a classic was born and continued to grow and develop until finally in 1955 Kay Thompson and the artist Hilary Knight locked themselves in a suite at the Plaza and stayed there until they emerged book in hand; Kay Thompson's Eloise: A book for precocious grownups.

Miss Eloise, (Sofia Vassilieva ) a most precocious six year old, is a permanent fixture of the Plaza Hotel of Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, New York, much to the bane of Mr Salamore, (Jeff Tambore) the manager of the Plaza. Nanny (Julie Andrews) is the sole caregiver of Miss Eloise, but the whole staff are often pulled into her antics and thus are also engaged in the care of this incredible child who has ‘everything’ listed at the top of her to do list.

In Eloise at the Plaza , directed by Kevin Lima, we are introduced to this highly articulate child who at first glimpse appears to be parentless. While her father is never referred to in the movie, Eloise does have a mother who is never really home but calls daily or Eloise would miss her too terribly to bear. One would normally be tempted to feel sorry for a child living such a lonely lifestyle, wandering alone about the hotel, charging her lunch to her account and seemingly answering to no one, and only her Nanny to say ‘I love you’ to at bedtime; but her enthusiasm for life and ability to turn the whole world around upside down and seemingly into complete chaos, quickly chases away any sorrow you might otherwise feel for her. She is too busy having an incredibly, deliciously, busy life to feel sorry for.

Almost immediately in the movie we discover that the Plaza is awaiting the arrival of a Prince, and Mr. Salamore is in mortal dread of Eloise learning of said arrival. Adding to his discomposure is the reality that on this same date the Plaza is hosting the annual Debutante Ball, the very same that Eloise’s mother attended so many years ago. We learn from Nanny and Eloise that Eloise’s mother “has grace” and wore a Dior dress with rose buds in her hair. It is Eloise’s plan to attend the ball this year so as to begin to prepare for her year as a Debutante, but is the staff’s job to make sure that Eloise neither learns of the secret arrival nor attend the Ball. Too much is riding on it for her to be allowed to carry out her usual antics. Yet Eloise is way ahead of them all and we, the audience, are captivated as we watch it all unravel. Somehow Eloise pulls us along with her complete confidence that all will turn out well and for the better, no matter how badly it all seems to turning out.

Tambore is perfect in his role as the harried and zealous general manager of the Plaza and hints of Mary Poppins peek out at us while we watch Julie Andrews play the part of Eloise’s Nanny. Other main characters in the movie are Philip, Eloise’s dreaded French tutor and Linda the debutante whom Eloise focus’s her Cupid’s arrow on. Linda’s mother's self imposed importance is painful to watch as she directs, bullies and harangues her daughter throughout the movie. And we can not forget Sir Wilkes (Canadian Kenneth Welsh) whose heart strings are being pulled unknowingly by Nanny, much to Eloise's delight.

Not having read the original books I can not account as to how accurately the movie portrays the written Eloise, but in this movie the actress looks remarkably like Knight’s renderings of her and her character as portrayed by Vasalievia is a real charmer.
It is great fun to see how she and Nanny take so much delight in each other company and the ending leaves you hungry for more of Eloise.

The movie ends with a hint as to the fun to come in the next movie Eloise at Christmas Time when Christine Baranski is introduced as Prunella Stickler, the newly hired event co-ordinator, in the last scenes of Eloise at the Plaza. Look for a review to be posted soon for Eloise at Christmas Time.

Although there is not a lot of depth to the movie, it will make an adorable addition to any home’s collection of DVDs and would make wonderful holiday viewing. So reserve or pick up a DVD of Eloise at the Plaza from your favourite movie rental proprietor, pick up your favorite snacks and sit down with your family and sit back to laugh, maybe tear up a little and generally have a good time.

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