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Hats Off

An inspirational-minded glimpse at a steady-working senior who launched her career at a point when most performers would think about retiring.

Cast:
With: Mimi Weddell, Sarah Dillon, Tom Weddell, Donna Deseta, Lauren Green.

Age is no obstacle to 93-year-old model-actress Mimi Weddell in “Hats Off,” an inspirational-minded glimpse at a steady-working senior who launched her career at a point when most performers would think about retiring. Despite intimate, prolonged access to her subject, director Jyll Johnstone seems to have missed the most interesting wrinkles of Weddell’s story in favor of fuzzy life’s-a-stage affirmations. Expect matinees to outperform evening shows as mostly retired auds investigate the narrow arthouse release.

With melancholy bemusement, “Hats Off” views the New York-based Weddell as an Energizer bunny-like force of nature, shuffling from one cattle call to the next. Intercutting auditions, clips and not especially insightful interviews with friends and family, docu ultimately feels more like an extended demo reel than a proper portrait. Weddell’s “rise above it” mantra may give her strength, but where’s the hardship that inspired it? While Johnstone doesn’t reduce her subject to “Grey Gardens”-style caricature, neither does she let Weddell’s eccentricities take wing. Pic feels too polite, treating a minor player’s sheer determination as a mark of success, when her hat-collecting obsession and peculiar home life imply a far more complex personality left unexplored.

Hats Off

Production: A Canobie Films, Abramorama release and presentation. Produced by Jyll Johnstone, Michael Arlen Davis. Directed by Jyll Johnstone.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Eddie Marritz, Sophie Constantinou, Jamie McEwen, Richard Numeroff, Alex Rappaport, Paolo Santangelo, Fawn Yacker; editors, Kate Stilley Steiner, Bill Weber; Frankie Spellman, Stevie Buzzell. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, March 25, 2008. (In Palm Springs, 2007 Telluride film festivals.) Running time: 84 MIN.

With: With: Mimi Weddell, Sarah Dillon, Tom Weddell, Donna Deseta, Lauren Green.

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