“HATS OFF”

Reviewed by C. D. Mille

Some magical fairy dust is being sprinkled over Palm Springs this week. Namely at the Camelot Theatre during a limited engagement of the charming documentary, “Hats Off.”

Meet Mimi Weddell, a lively 93 year old who studies ballet, performs in film and on stage, sings and executes gymnastics. She is a one woman “Follies.”

Possessing a stunning beauty and a lively wit, life began for Mimi at the age of 65 with passing of her husband. Determined to follow her dreams, she set out to fulfill a life long ambition for performing. Never wanting to become a star, she simply wants to act. We go along with Mimi as she makes the rounds in New York, enduring cattle calls, long hours on the set and taking her bite out of the Big Apple.

But what’s more captivating than her spirited ambition is her wonderful philosophy of living. Enchanting but not eccentric, she embraces the world with a mixture of joy, wonder and the credo, “Rise above it.”

Never one of great means and with her share of life‘s jarring bumps, she still is able to swirl in the dance of days with an enormous flair and style. The finer things never escaped her appreciation, even if she was not able to actually possess them. Chic and self assured, she’d never think of going out with a hat. In fact, she says, “The only honest thing in life is a hat.” And what an amazing collection of hats she owns and wears.

Adding to the richness of the film is her family. Grounded in the realities of the world, her son and daughter provide a vivid contrast to her panache. Indeed, her daughter and daughter’s children have been living with her for years in a small apartment. This sometimes chaotic domestic situation is challenging but never conquers her admirable character.

“Hats Off” is a compelling and enjoyable profile of a truly unique woman. Director Jyll Johnstone is obviously taken with her subject yet never allows her admiration for Mimi to become fawning. We are given a look her elegance as well as the mundane, making Mimi all the more fascinating.

The film has a rich, warm look to it and includes clips from some of Mimi’s work ranging from ultra-low budget horror films to major motion pictures. All quite delightful.

Uplifting, entertaining and enlightening, “Hats Off” will make you feel that anything is possible. As Mimi says, “Achieving a dream, no matter how small or large, it’s a miracle.”

FINAL TAKE: Auntie Mame meets Sally Bowles.

 

HATS OFF -- the acclaimed documentary by Canobie Films, starring Mimi Weddell. All materials © 2008