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April 09, 2008

Irina Palm

Irina Palm Marianne Faithful is in a class with great female singers like Debbie Harry or Patti Smith. Her "Broken English" album (1979) is as timeless today as it was then. She brings her understated carriage and world-weary demeanor as a working class hero in modern day London. Maggie (Faithful) is an aging widow who has spent all of her money to help pay for medical care of her 10-year-old grandson who suffers from a rare and potentially terminal disease. In order to finance a specialized treatment opportunity in Australia, Maggie takes the only job a woman of her age and experience can find, jerking off men through a hole in a wall at a SoHo porn shop. Maggie’s gifted caress earns her a quick reputation and the stage name of Irina Palm. Things get dicey when Maggie’s son Tom (Kevin Bishop) learns of the source of the cash that she gives to his wife Sarah (Siobhan Hewlett), who is more appreciative of Maggie’s sincere efforts.

Far from the exploitation movie that you’d expect from its subject matter, "Irina Palm" is a significant piece of cinematic satire that comes straight from the heart. It may not be a perfect film; some plot points are rushed, or ring hollow. Nonetheless, Marianne Faithful creates a character who knows how to keep her emotions in check while providing for her family in a way Britain’s economic system will allow.

Not Rated. 103 mins. (B) (Three Stars)

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