If Vulture blogger Quincy Jones has taught us anything, it’s to gossip with the confidence of an 80-year-old with nothing to lose. Tea With The Dames doubles down on this lesson, and satisfied an urge I didn’t even know I had: I desperately need to gossip with Maggie Smith. The Harry Potter star is a human subtweet machine, the prime minister of petty! In Tea With The Dames, she’s joined by fellow dames Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins; the women hark back on their early roles on stage and screen, talk about their ex-husbands and marriages, and shade the newer “naturalist” actors. It’s a movie that feels like a long lunch with your favorite grandmother(s): These women are older than you, wiser than you, and extremely willing to tell you when they don’t want to do something. Dench talks Bond, Smith talks Potter, and they all talk about Plowright’s late husband, an unknown actor named Laurence Olivier. Out of the mouths of 80-somethings comes … whatever they freaking want! So: are you petty like Smith or generous like Plowright? Find out which dame you identify with most, below.
Update: IFC Films has kindly made photo illustrations for Dames fans — share yours dame of choice over tea, or (more likely) just on Twitter.
Dame Judi Dench
Are you that bitch? Do you dress in rich, loose bohemian fabrics and adorn yourselves with bangles and bracelets and necklaces? Are you successful? Are you a little aware that you’re the real star in the room, with the biggest dick energy, but willing to share your spotlight with other deserving women? Are you quick on the defense? Do people generally regard you as a queen? Congratulations! You are Dame Judi Dench, who is indeed that bitch. She’s arguably had the most successful Hollywood career and was the first of the dames to be damed. Here’s Dench’s advice to her younger self, which you may find helpful: “Try not to be so susceptible to falling in love.”
Do you just happen to be candidly and preciously … nice? I have never felt this way, but the closest I have felt to it was in watching Joan Plowright breeze in and out of the conversation with her fellow dames. Are you the loyal friend, the ally always in someone’s corner? The type of friend to just live in a dreamy cottage? Are you warm and expressive, with a winning sense of humor? Does your hearing aid fall out or turn off from time to time (or, analogously, are you the friend with the worst service or the shittiest phone)? Are you nonetheless insanely talented and, like, they can’t not invite you? Are you the first to suggest champagne? Well, hello! You are Dame Joan Plowright!
Even though Joan Plowright wins the movie’s greatest scene — when she tells Judi Dench in no uncertain terms that everyone else is basically taking whatever Hollywood work she hasn’t got her paws on — she’s movingly candid when it comes to her career, her high-profile marriage to Laurence Olivier (she was a fan girl, then his scene partner, and then his wife), and how she doesn’t like all the um-um-ums of modern Shakespeare performances. “Shakespeare is poetry, and it does have a rhythm,” she says. “[Naturalism performances are] like, you bring it down to you and your size, instead of reaching up to it.”
Dame Eileen Atkins
Are you the friend who insists on taking photos that highlight your good angles? Are you the girl who minds her own business, but can get hot when pressed? Are you usually the one to keep things in level-headed perspective, but who doesn’t mind a little confrontation? Are you fine with flying under the radar — to a point? Is fear your fuel? Do you present as pretty chill and loose, but have an agenda to get across (namely, that you know your worth!)? Are you a perfectionist? Have you pulled off a perm? And are you not that bothered by the opinions of others? Greetings, Dame Eileen Atkins.
Dame Eileen Atkins was, by her own admission, never a great beauty — but she knows she’s sexy, and that’s kept her happy and employed for 50 years. Who cares about awards and honors and distinction when you know your worth!
Dame Maggie Smith
Do you like to gossip? Do you say funny things without allowing yourself to fully laugh at them even though, not even that deep down, you know you’re really the funniest person you’ve ever met? Are you a little bit annoyed that more people don’t recognize your winning personality and your striking good looks? Have you not watched Downton Abbey? (“They gave me a box set. I shall have to hasten otherwise I won’t last long enough to see the wretched thing!”) Do you often peer skeptically at someone recounting a story, or cooly glare at whoever is speaking, whether you agree with them or not? Do you politely but firmly announce that you are old and tired, and that you’ve said all there is to say? Do you, somehow and for no specific reason, look generally unconvinced by anything anyone says? Do you have the ability to speak in a lower register of pure condescension? Welcome: we are Maggie Smiths.
Every time Dame Smith reminisces about her stage work, it’s a memory laced with something a little bit insulting: For example, she didn’t feel confident about her Cleopatra performance, so she only agreed to do it in Canada, presumably where no one knew any better. She recalls working on Othello with Laurence Olivier (who was in blackface), and leaves it to Plowright to bring up the beef she had with him at one point in her career. (Like a true petty queen, she gets bashful when Plowright brings it up.) She smile-grimaces through pretending to be interested in anything other than how much money Judi Dench ended up making from the James Bond movies. As for her own little franchise, Harry Potter? “Alan Rickman and I just ran out of reaction shots.”