Hats Off

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Abramorama

You might not know it, but you've probably already been exposed to Mimi Weddell, the subject of Jyll Johnstone's entertaining if slight documentary "Hats Off."

The 93-year-old actress is fairly ubiquitous, both in print ads (for the likes of Luis Vuitton, Burberry and many others) and film and television, with credits including "Sex and the City," "Law & Order," "Hitch," "Across the Universe" and "The Purple Rose of Cairo." If you're a horror fan, you'll probably recognize her as the murderous alter kocker from "Student Bodies."

The film's title stems from one of Weddell's numerous eccentricities, namely her habit of wearing one of her 300 hats every time she walks out the door. As seen here, the senior performer is a memorably idiosyncratic figure who is in remarkable physical condition. Living by her motivational credo of "rise above it," she's still more than capable of performing rigorous gymnastics and declares at one point, "If people walk slowly in front of me these days, I want to kick them!"

Weddell became a full-time actress at the age of 65, after her husband died suddenly and left her financially bereft. This cinematic portrait vividly depicts the daily grind of being a working actor, following her as she subjects herself to an exhausting routine of cattle call-style auditions.

Although it's highly effective at conveying the amusing aspects of its subject's quirky personality, "Hats Off" is less than meaningful in terms of terms of getting under her skin. Despite the inclusion of interviews with Weddell's bemused adult children, who clearly have more than a few issues with their mother, the film fails to provide the psychological perspective necessary to lift it above the level of kitsch.
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