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Cotton Mary

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Madhur Jaffrey, Cotton Mary

Cotton Mary

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
R
runtime:
125 minutes
performer:
Madhur Jaffrey, Greta Scacchi
director:
Ismail Merchant
distributor:
Artistic License Films
author:
Alexandra Viets
genre:
Historical, Drama

We gave it a C

Is the Anglo-Indian title character in Cotton Mary — so nicknamed because of her snobbish preference for English cotton — coming unraveled under the strain of Euro envy in 1954 India? Or does her crack-up allow her to display a wound of history otherwise covered up by good manners? Either way, actress and well-known cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey turns on the histrionics as a hospital nurse going mad who, nevertheless, insinuates herself into a position of responsibility in a household presided over by an overwhelmed Englishwoman (Greta Scacchi), and wrecks the lives of everyone around her.

The settings are pretty, the allusions are broad: The mistress of the house is frantic because she can’t produce milk for her newborn, and Mary sneaks the baby off to be fed by her wheelchair-bound sister; the master (James Wilby) has eyes for Mary’s niece (Jaffrey’s daughter, Sakina Jaffrey). But, this being a Merchant-Ivory film (directed by Merchant, who usually produces), nothing is expressed directly; only the curtains move, blowing in the subcontinent wind.