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The Two Popes

Real Life Update: The firs pope's failure to just resign and become invisible but instread remain as Pope Emeritus is contining to make headlines with the publcation of a new book in which the "other" pope makes a firm case for continued 100% celibacy even as Pope Francs is considering a compromise option to deal with a shortage of priests in remote countries.

Once again a made for fans of the streaming experience changed my initial ho-hum about seeing yet another take about real people constantly in the limelight. The Two Popes isn't a binge-sized epic like The Crown, but a "regular" movie length Netflix production very loosely based drama about the current Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI — who is still alive and thus validates the film's title, if not all the details about their interactions.

But given that this less than completely true to the facts drama features two of Great Britain's finest thespians, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce as the leads, it did somehow demand a place on my streaming agenda.. And sure enough, the performances of Hopkins and Price, screenwriter Anthony McCarten's often humorous screenplay, and director Fernando Merelles' astute direction deliver the goods

As The Crown gave viewers eye-popping inside views of the grandeur of the pomp and circumstance integral to what they're about, The Two Popes does the same for the Vatican. For all the grandeur of the setting what we have here is essentially two historic figures transformed into charccters in a buddy movie. Its plot, if you can call it that, has those character be part of the hierarchy of the Catholic church — one in the very top job and decidedly conservative; the other a Cardinal — who become friends despite their very different backgrounds and views about church customs and responsibilities.

While Hopkins like Pryce has a distinguished stage resumIe I've seen seeing him only on screen. However, I was lucky enough to see Pryce on stage several times — during, the just ended season in The Height of the Storm amd a few seasons ago , not as a Catholic priece but the Jewish title character of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice.

The title more or less gives away the outcome of the two men's meetings: Pryce's Argentinian Jesuit priest is deeply committed to furthering social welfare and actually comes to Rome to hand in his resignation as Cardinal to Hopkins' more traditionally conservative Pope Beriglio. No matter how you get your daily headlines, you'll know that not only isn't Francis's resignation not accepted, but it's he who ends up as our reigning Pope, while Beriglio resigned his post to become Pope Emeritus.

Despite the cast not being limited to the two titular characters, this fits the two-hander genre, but in a brsutifully and smartly enhanced mode. At just a bit over two hours, it moves along without longueurs, with considerable help from the more populated scenes that provide a fascinating look at the system for selecting a pope. For some added substsnce the scandals that have darkened the church's image are not overlooked either though the director does not allow this to undercut the fun to watch interactions, like one in which the two men share a pizza. The differences about the men's ideologival differences is illusrated almost metaphorically when they are shown watching the 2014 World Cup final, with each rooting for a competing teams.

For extra visual thrills, there are the scenes in a room next to the thoroughl restored Sistine Chapel

Initially the men's temperamental and ideological divide seems too wide any sort of connection, let alone friendship. However, the script uses their more down-to-earth appreciation of dance and soccer to both illustrate their differences — as when we see the men watching the 2014 World Cup together but rooting for cmpeting teams — and yet hint that a bridge can be buiflt.

Juan Minujín ably depicts a younger Francis during the flashbacks to the background and it's effect on his sense of what the church's priorities should be. Well done and worth our attention as all this is, the most pleasurable memory you'll take away from this film is watching Pryce and Hopkins bring the past and present pope to such touching, funny and vivid life.

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The Two Popes
Written by Anthony McCarten
Directed by Fernando Merelles
Cinematographer César Charlone
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Anthony Hopkins, Juan Minujín, Sidney Cole, Thomas D Williams
Running Time 2h 5m
Biography, Comedy, Drama

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