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The Professor and the Madman

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WORD HOUNDS Based on the true story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, project leader and autodidact James Murray (Mel Gibson, left) enlists murderer and asylum patient Dr. William Chester Minor (Sean Penn) to compile etymological entries of every word in the English language, in The Professor and the Madman, available on Netflix. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VOLTAGE PICTURES
  • Photo Courtesy Of Voltage Pictures
  • WORD HOUNDS Based on the true story of the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary, project leader and autodidact James Murray (Mel Gibson, left) enlists murderer and asylum patient Dr. William Chester Minor (Sean Penn) to compile etymological entries of every word in the English language, in The Professor and the Madman, available on Netflix.

What's it rated? Not rated

When? 2019

Where's it showing? Netflix

Farhad Safinia (as P.B. Shemran) directs the amazing true story of the early years of compiling the Oxford English Dictionary and the fascinating but unlikely friendship between the project leader James Murray (Mel Gibson) and murderer and asylum patient Dr. William Minor (Sean Penn).

Murray is an autodidact who convinces Oxford University he's the right man to take over the stalled project of compiling the dictionary. His idea is to enlist English speakers from around the world to submit word etymology, tracing its usage through published books. When he begins to receive thousands of entries from Broadmore Criminal Lunatic Asylum patient Dr. Willian Minor, an insane American who was sent to the asylum for murder, they strike up a friendship centered on their shared intellects and love of words.

It's also the story of Minor's attempts at redemption and to atone for his crime by helping the widow of his victim, Eliza Merrett (Natalie Dormer), by offering her his military pension. It's overwrought and maudlin, but it gives these powerhouse actors a lot of scenery to chew. I found it compelling and deeply interesting. (124 min.) Δ

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