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Posts Tagged ‘Ioan Gruffudd’

Mel Gibson, Sean Penn

“THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN” My rating: B (Now on Amazon Prime)

124 minutes | No MPAA rating

Given that it was initiated three years ago by Mel Gibson’s production company, that its release was delayed by internal controversy, and that its director has insisted on using an alias in the credits, one expects “The Professor and the Madman” to be a hot mess.

Instead it is a fascinating slice of history and a moving tale of friendship and salvation. Plus it features one of Sean Penn’s greatest performances.

Be thankful the film was picked up by Amazon, where it will be experienced by far more people than would have paid to see it in a theater.

Based on Simon Winchester’s non-fiction best seller of the same name, “Professor…” stars Gibson as James Murray, a self-taught Scotsman who ended up leading a team that over 70 years produced the Oxford English Dictionary, an attempt to catalogue and parse the history of every word in the English language.

A genius with an almost encyclopedic memory when it came to language, Murray set up a system by which everyday British citizens from throughout the Empire could contribute postcard-sized analyses of words, quoting examples of their use in great literature.

His work created problems on the domestic front — Murray’s obsession with the project led to tension with the Missus (Jennifer Ehle). And he was forever being undercut by the titled snobs attached to the project, who resented Murray’s Scottish background and his lack of a university degree.

Murray is the “professor” of the title. ┬áThe “madman” is a veteran of the American Civil War, surgeon William Minor (Penn), who suffered from what today might have been diagnosed as PTSD, along with a good dose of schizophrenia.

Minor was convinced he was being targeted by an assassin; in Lambeth in 1871 he shot to death George Merrett, a man he believed was stalking him. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and incarcerated in an asylum.

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