You are cordially invited to Tea with Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright, Dame Maggie Smith, and Dame Eileen Atkins.
Picture the dream invite. Picture the English countryside on a fine British afternoon listening in as these four Dames and British titans of stage and screen sit down to tea. Think of the stories they’d share, their experience, but think of the wit.
Roger Michell’s new documentary gives us a fly on the wall view, taking us into Plowright’s country home as these four ladies sit down for a cup of tea and a great afternoon of conversation.
Mrs. Brown, Gosford Park, Paddington 2, Tea With Mussolini, Downton Abbey, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Harry Potter Franchise are just a few of the films in which these actresses have charmed us. Friends since their twenties, they sure do have some stories to tell.
It’s an absolutely delightful experience from the moment Michell turns the camera on and the ladies and friends sit down and start to reminisce.
It’s a free-flowing conversation. Michell will occasionally prod and guide them through a wealth of memories. They bond over Othello and the role of Cleopatra. Atkins confesses she turned down the role because she didn’t have the courage to do it. Smith admits the same. Plowright admits she didn’t have the courage to take the part on because “she was meant to be of great beauty.” Dench adds she “didn’t want to be the menopausal dwarf playing the part.”
This is the frankness and honesty of the conversations the ladies have. At one point he asks about aging to which Dench replies, “Fuck off.”
They talk about critics. “They don’t realize we’re shaking inside,” Plowright says. They talk about reviews. “You don’t read them,” Smith says and Dench agrees, “It’s best not to read them”.
Marriage. Men, all come up. It’s ultimately a great conversation between friends, recalling their fondest of memories accompanied with footage of highlights from each of their careers. It’s great storytelling. Smith admits to never having seen the box set of Downton Abbey, “I won’t last long enough to see the wretched thing, will I?” She asks.
Plowright, though retired from acting, still gives great insight into her career, and Dench jokes that they’ll be “acting forever.” The others joke that she’s always asked first.
Tea With The Dames is a truly wonderful way to spend an afternoon. An afternoon with these British treasures is an afternoon well spent, so grab a cuppa tea and enjoy this extraordinary insight into the lives of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins.
Tea With The Dames screened at the LA Film Festival and is on general release.