The Lion in Winter

Movie Information

In Brief: The Lion in Winter may not be a great movie, but as an historical romp that affords the chance of seeing two champion scene-stealers — Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn — go at each other, it's undeniably entertaining. This tale of three sons and their strong-willed mother attempting to force Henry II into choosing an heir is essentially history as domestic comedy. Who's to say that's wrong?
Genre: Historical Romp
Director: Anthony Harvey (They Might Be Giants)
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, Nigel Terry
Rated: PG

I have a confession to make. No matter how good a film like this is—and this one is very good indeed—something inside me cringes the minute I see castle walls and hear trumpets blaring. I start having trouble taking what I’m seeing seriously. (I think this comes from a recording of Julius Caesar I was subjected to in high school where every time Caesar approached he was accompanied by a tinny fanfare. It amused me then and it seems to have stuck.) Whatever the case, I tend to shy away from movies like The Lion in Winter, which is a pity because this is a supremely entertaining movie that turns royal intrigue into domestic farce—and offers us a Henry II (Peter O’ Toole) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) who are basically George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in period costume. Well, as written, they’re also a little more likable than George and Martha, but the dynamic is about the same. It’s an historical romp—with the accent on the romp. As history, well, it’s a bit on the sketchy side in a lot of ways, but that’s hardly the point. The point is really O’Toole and Hepburn tossing barbed insults at each other—and anyone foolish enough to get in their way. Of course, it also gave us the film debuts of Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton—and the Academy another opportunity to not give O’Toole an Oscar.

The Hendersonville Film Society will show The Lion in Winter Sunday, Jan. 26, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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