A critical confession: I have never seen Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre,” the 1981 film in which artists Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory converse over a meal. But I’m willing to bet that even if I had, I’d prefer “Tea With the Dames,” a charming glimpse into an afternoon hangout between longtime friends — Joan Plowright, Eileen Atkins, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench — all of whom happen to be British acting royalty.
Intercutting their banter with clips from many decades of award-winning film and stage performances, director Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) mostly hangs back, every so often lobbing a question: “Talk about getting older!” he calls. Dench shoots him a withering glance. “F – – k off, Roger.”
It’s the no-BS Dench who steals the show, especially when her pals lovingly gang up on her for snagging all the good parts for older women. But Smith is no slouch either, especially when rolling her eyes about her character’s ornate hats in “Downton Abbey” and confiding that she’s never actually seen the show. “They sent me a box set,” she shrugs.
In a perfect world, “Tea With the Dames” could be a series. Let us be flies on the wall for this posse’s weekly gathering for tea and convivial cackling. And I say this with the delighted surety that they would tell anyone who proposed this idea to go straight to hell.
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