January 27, 1999
Ayn Rand is critically regarded as a highly unique writer and thinker, the creator of controversial works like The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Her clarion call for individual freedom and societal revolution has attracted a devoted following of a near-worshipful nature. As fascinating an artist as she is, however, what makes this intelligent and dramatic study work on so many levels certainly begins with her portrayal by the extraordinary Helen Mirren. So completely does Mirren infuse this performance with her own marvelous energy and eccentricity that it's impossible to conceive of another actress playing Rand. Director Christopher Menaul makes this period piece ring with contemporary issues as he dramatizes this literary icon's life. The film begins at the end of the 1940s just as Rand's world is being transformed by fame. The Fountainhead has just been acclaimed, and an admiring student and his girlfriend, Nathaniel Blumenthal and Barbara Brandon (Eric Stoltz and Julie Delpy), pay a visit that begins a lifelong relationship destined to alter all of their lives. Peter Fonda, in a marvelously different role as Rand's mate, the loyal, supportive, yet subordinate, Frank O'Conner, rounds out an exceptional cast that carries this biographical tale well beyond the limits of the customary psychodrama. With a great sense of creative detail and flair, The Passion of Ayn Rand is a terrifically realized drama that displays the passions of art and filmmaking with rare quality.