Incredible Mrs. Ritchie (2003)

A troubled teen is given the chance to redeem his criminal debt to society.

Genre – Drama

Executive Producer – Walter Josten

Director(s) – Paul Johansson

Writer(s) – Paul Johansson

Cast – Kevin Zegers , Gena Rowlands and James Caan

Blue Rider’s Role – Executive producers and arranged bridge financing

Distributor(s) – Showtime

Release Date – 2003

Synopsis – The touching story of a kid who is having trouble at home and in school, so the principal (James Caan) gives him a choice between expulsion and working after school for an eccentric old lady. An unusual relationship develops between the woman and the student.

Awards for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie:
This film was nominated for five Emmys and won three. Blue Rider co-founder Walter Josten, Nick Cassavetes and the nine other producers won for Outstanding Children/Youth/Family Special. Lead actress Gena Rowlands and screenwriter Paul Johansson also won. Co-star James Caan was nominated as was director Paul Johansson. It was also nominated for three of Canada’s prestigious Gemini awards: for Best Drama series, supporting actor Jeremy Raymond and production designer Matthew Davies. Donna Fuller won an AMPIA award for Best Makeup.

Blue Rider’s Contribution:
Executive Producer Walter Josten had a pivotal role in this Showtime Original Premiere, bridge-financing it through Blue Rider, engineering the closing of financing by the Royal Bank of Scotland and bringing in international distributor Kathy Morgan to conduct overseas sales.

Release Dates:
Played at the 2003 Cannes Film Market; made its DVD premieres in the US (Mar. 30, 2004), Greece (Oct. 13, 2006) and Hungary (Jan.5, 2007).

Viewers’ Ratings:
Of the 270 viewers who rated Mrs. Ritchie at the Internet Movie Database through Feb. 26, 2009, 76.3% gave it positive ratings, the average rating was 6.8 out of 10 and 18.5% rated it a perfect 10. All demographic groups rated it positively (6.3 or higher out of 10). The most enthusiastic groups were females 30-44 (rating it 7.7 out of 10), women 45 and older (7.4) and boys 17 and younger (7.2).

Critics’ Kudos: raves: “Gena Rowlands delivers another captivating performance in this tender drama about a quirky widow who teaches a troubled teenager some very valuable lessons about life and love.”

Sandra Dozier, DVD Verdict: “Rowlands turns in a warm, completely likable performance as Mrs. Ritchie, a widowed matriarch who has two sons with Down’s syndrome and who can always be found puttering in her vast garden. Charlie is sent to her after a series of delinquent episodes that tax the patience of Dewitt. The theory, apparently, is that a little manual labor (and time away from the bad influences he normally hangs out with) will do him some good. Writer (and director) Paul Johansson wanted to bring his experience with a real-life Mrs. Ritchie to the screen, and he has obviously poured much of his heart into the script and direction.

“When he goes to Mrs. Ritchie, Charlie is horrified by her industriousness, her magnificent garden, her eccentric conversations with her late husband, and her developmentally challenged sons. It is all far too square for him to handle, but he grudgingly goes through the motions. Mrs. Ritchie doesn’t force things, and soon he begins to warm to her. At this point, the viewer starts to warm to the movie, as well, and this is mostly due to Rowlands. She seems to glide in a bubble of tranquility through each scene, either oblivious to the chaos around her (her daughter and son-in-law arrive, and the son-in-law starts wondering how much he’ll get for selling her property), or above it. This latter state seems more likely, since at times we see her pulled back down into the reality of her situation – a reality that includes her own declining health, as evidenced by a persistent cough and periods of weakness.

“As Charlie begins to find his own place in the universe and heal his fractured psyche, things and people around him begin to change, as well. The metaphor of Mrs. Ritchie’s garden as an emblem of Charlie’s flowering humanity isn’t beaten into you with a bat, but it’s something you won’t miss, either.

“There’s a sprinkling of the supernatural toward the end, as well, which livens up the story a bit. The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie is a sweet and endearing story about coming of age. Fans of Gena Rowlands or Kevin Zegers will enjoy their screen time and onscreen chemistry and may want to check this out.

“The video transfer for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie is good, with a clean print and bright visuals. The production values for this movie are on the medium-high end, and Mrs. Ritchie’s garden is bursting with color that is shown off well by the clear image. Sound quality is also good, with the original English 2.0 surround track and a remastered 5.1 track that is clear. Extras feature interviews with writer-director Paul Johansson about the movie and his cast, and actors Rowlands and Zegers discussing their roles. Also included are bios for the three lead actors and a couple of trailers.”

C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle: “Gena Rowlands makes the most of Mrs. Ritchie’s quirks.”

Major Cast and Crew Credits and Awards: 
Directed and written by Paul Johansson (won Emmy for writing The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie and was nominated for another for directing it; wrote and directed Conversations in Limbo and directed eight episodes of One Tree Hill).

Stars Kevin Zegers (five-time Young Artist Award nominee, and winner for Air Bud; one other award and one more nom; appeared in Dawn of the Dead, Transamerica, In the Mouth of Madness, four Air Bud movies, Wrong Turn, Zoom, The Jane Austen Book Club, 11 episodes of Titans, seven episodes of Traders and 41 other movies and TV projects); Gena Rowlands (Oscar noms for Gloria and A Woman Under the Influence; 21 major awards and 16 other nominations for works including Unhook the Stars, The Notebook, Hope Floats, Love Streams, Opening Night, The Betty Ford Story, Hysterical Blindness, The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie, Wild Iris, An Early Frost, Crazy in Love and The Skeleton Key; appeared in Taking Lives, Night on Earth, Playing By Heart, The Mighty, Faces, Once Around, Paris Je T’aime, She’s So Lovely, Something to Talk About, Lonely Are The Brave and 74 other movies and TV projects) and James Caan (Oscar nom for The Godfather; six major awards and nine nominations for works including The Gambler, Funny Lady, Brian’s Song, The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie, Rollerball, The Glory Guys and Misery; appeared in The Godfather: Part II, Dogville, Elf, Dick Tracy, Bottle Rocket, 1941, A Bridge Too Far, Eraser, Mickey Blue Eyes, 88 episodes of Las Vegas and 75 more films and TV projects).

Cast also includes Leslie Hope (SAG Award nominee for 24; appeared in Love Streams, Talk Radio, Dragonfly, War and Remembrance, Men at Work, Never Back Down, Fun, 24 episodes of 24, 10 episodes of Runaway, 13 episodes of Line of Fire, five episodes of Commander in Chief and 71 other movies and TV projects); Brenda James (Patriot Games, Slither, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Taken, Stone Cold, See Spot Run, Safe House, 13 episodes of 2gether: The series, five episodes of Cold Squad, four episodes of Stargate Atlantis and 33 other movies and TV projects); Justin Chatwin (War of the Worlds, Taking Lives, Josie and the Pussycats, The Invisible, Chumscrubber and Taken); Jeremy Raymond (Gemini Award Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie; appeared in A Problem With Fear) and Cameron Daddo (won Logie Award for Golden Fiddles and nominated for another for Perfect Match; appeared in Inland Empire, Big Momma’s House 2, Chloe’s Prayer, Anthrax, 20 episodes of She Spies, 11 episodes of Hope Island, 14 episodes of F/X: The Series, 29 episodes of Models Inc. and 38 other movies and TV projects) and David Schofield (Gladiator, three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, From Hell, The Last of the Mohicans, An American Werewolf in London, The Musketeer, The Dogs of War, The Forsythe Saga, Our Friends in the North, Our Mutual Friend, five episodes of Holby City, six episodes of Blue Murder, eight episodes of Goldplated, three episodes of Footballers’ Wives, four episodes of The Bill and 54 other movies and TV projects).

This film won Emmy Awards for executive producers Nick Cassavetes (nominated for Cannes Golden Palm for directing She’s So Lovely and won Fansporto Directors Week Award for directing Unhook the Stars; directed The Notebook, Alpha Dog and John Q; wrote Blow, Alpha Dog, Unhook the Stars and Whatever We Do); Walter Josten (The Hollywood Sign, Kids World, Shergar, Back in the Day and 33 other films and TV projects); Phil Alberstat (Crimetime, Secret Society, Bad Faith, Hooligans); Jana Edelbaum (Among Giants, Romance & Cigarettes, Top of the Food Chain, Advice From a Caterpillar, Investigating Sex, Hi-Life); Jim Reeve (The Wedding Date, Beyond the Sea, Young Adam, The Whistle Blower, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Bright Young Things, 12 episodes of Foyle’s War, five episodes of Murder Rooms and 31 other movies and TV projects) and Steve Robbins (Beyond the Sea, The Wedding Date, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, Bright Young Things, Crime Spree); and producers Chad Oakes (won Western Heritage Award and another Emmy for Broken Trail; nominated for two Gemini Awards for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie and Hooked Up; produced Hugo Pool, Boot Camp, Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, The Barber, A Twist of Faith, Snowbound and Boot Camp) and Michael Frislev (Gemini Award noms for Hooked Up and The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie; produced Boot Camp, Snowbound, Cover Story, Lies My Mother Told Me, Fighting the Odds: The Marilyn Gambrell Story and Hooligans) and line producer Linda Rogers-Ambury (Oscar nomination for See What I Say; line produced Caitlin’s Way and the Little House on the Prairie miniseries; production manager on Everwood, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and North of 60).

Original Music by Stephen W. Parsons (Split Second, 9 Dead Gay Guys, Arthur’s Dyke, Charlie, Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf, Love in Paris, The Piano Player, Conspiracy of Silence).

Cinematography by Paul Sarossy (won 15 major awards and five other nominations for works including Affliction, Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Felicia’s Journey, Black Widow, Mr In-Between, Head in the Clouds and Picture Windows; shot Duets, Charlie Bartlett, The Wicker Man, Ararat, Picture Perfect, Where the Truth Lies, Blood & Donuts and 42 other movies and TV projects).

Film Editing by Eddie Hamilton (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Swept Away, Minotaur, Urban Ghost Story, DOA: Dead or Alive and Mean Machine).

Production Design by Matthew Davies (won Directors Guild of Canada Award for The Saddest Music in the World; earned two more DGC noms for Saint Ralph and Snow Cake; nominated for Genie Awards for Best Production Design on The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie and Elizabeth Rex; designed Show Me Yours, One Way, Saint Ralph and Fugitive Places).

Art Direction by Andrew Moreau (nominated for an Art Directors Guild Award for The Magic of Ordinary Days; art directed Angels Fall, Montana Sky, Lies My Mother told Me, Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss, Johnson County War).

Makeup Head: Donna Fuller (nominated for AMPIA Best Makeup Award for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie; makeup head for Saving Grace, Goose on the Loose, DreamKeeper).

Costume Design by Ruth Secord (two major awards and six nominations for works including Road to Avonlea, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, Sleeping Dogs Lie, Under the Piano, Promise the Moon and Beautiful Dreams; costume designed P2, Cadet Kelly, Blown Away, Wild Iris, Bleacher Bums, The Thin Blue Lie, 12 episodes of The Border, 35 episodes of Wild Card, seven episodes of The Best Years, 50 episodes of Wind at My Back and 34 other movies and TV projects).

Internet Movie Database entry for The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie

Mrs. Ritchie trailers