Mike Duffy, Detroit Free Press:
"'Dash and Lilly,' a lively portrait of the
tempestuous, 30-year romance between hard-drinking
literary lovers Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman,
struts its entertaining stuff. The smart, acerbic Judy
Davis is a perfectly cast delight as smart, acerbic
playwright Hellman, And slim, handsome Sam Shepard bears
an uncanny physical resemblance to Hammett. Kathy Bates
also makes a fine film-directing debut as she nurtures a
jauntily relaxed acting chemistry between Davis and
Shepard, a rapport that brings out the affectionate,
rough-and-tumble relationship of raging nonconformists
Hellman and Hammett."
John Leonard, NY Magazine:
Shepard and Davis are a triumph of casting.
He may seem a little too healthy for a former Pinkerton
detective who suffered most of his life from
tuberculosis, who chain-smoked his way to emphysema, and
who died, in 1961, of cancer in both lungs, but
Shepard's got the evasive eyes and the sudden violence
and the Citizen Robespierre righteousness.
Kevin McDonough, Charleston Daily
Judy Davis is simply fabulous as the brash,
opinionated and often thoroughly miserable Hellman, and
Shepard is her equal as the reserved,
dipsomanical Hammett. And if this tandem weren't
delightful enough, Bebe Neuwirth floats in and out of
the picture as the wisecracking New Yorker critic
Jesse Berrett, City Pages:
Davis and Shepard, turning in dour, repressed
performances, capture the emotional essence of a world
in which a smart remark meant far more than a fat
royalty check. Shepard slides easily from the
cowboys and loners he has long played to the man whose
prose taught those men a lesson in emotional restraint.
He understands this '30s hero's flinty self-rule as well
as the writer's often senseless obedience to his own
standards of rectitude.
Caryn James, NY Times:
A perfectly cast Sam Shepard... Mr. Shepard's
Hammett is handsomely craggy and gray haired, his gentle
soul apparent beneath his drunken furies. It is an
James D. Watts, Jr., Tulsa World:
Shepard certainly looks and sounds the part
of Hammett: tall, lean and craggy, spitting out cynical
wisecracks in a soft, bemused voice. And his portrayal
of Hammett's slow crumbling, as drink and disease and
the inability to write take their toll, is delicately
nuanced, so that you feel the electric tension of the
young Hammett being leeched away.
Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post:
The droll humor, the vintage fashions, the
highballs, the leftist causes, the McCarthy era
paranoia, the smart-mouth flirting and bickering ...
this is the kind of movie that separates the networks
from the cable companies... Davis is a key ingredient
and Shepard's machismo contributes to the mix,
but the tastiest flavor is added by Bebe Neuwirth, who
plays Dorothy Parker.
James D. Watts, Jr., Tulsa World:
Davis is, no question, extraordinary.... Shepard
certainly looks and sounds the part of Hammett:
tall, lean and craggy, spitting out cynical wisecracks
in a soft, bemused voice. And his portrayal of Hammett's
slow crumbling, as drink and disease and the inability
to write take their toll, is delicately nuanced, so that
you feel the electric tension of the young Hammett being
leeched away. Together, however, they make a potent
pair, creating out of the shorthand of Ludwig's script a
textured portrait of the seismic battles that made up
the Hammett-Hellman relationship.
Bob Curtright, The Wichita Eagle:
Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates is a first-time
director with this wicked, witty, sometimes humorous and
often heartbreaking tale that has a "Masterpiece
Theatre" look and feel... The script by Jerry Ludwig
captures all the zingers and observations as the words
both caressed and cut. And the two leads create
evocative, compelling and haunting portrayals, showing
us a private side of some very public people... American
Shepard, a playwright himself, captures Hammett's
wry charm and exasperating destructiveness.
Gail Pennington, St. Louis
Shepard, a writer himself, is outstanding as
the quiet, tortured Hammett, conveying much with his
eyes. Sporting white hair, he's also handsomer than
ever... The supporting cast is strong, including David
Paymer as Hellman's first husband, Arthur Kober, and
Laurence Luckinbill as her attorney. But as wit Dorothy
Parker, Bebe Neuwirth steals every scene she's in.
Robert Philpot, Fort Worth
The performances transcend its TV origins. Sam
Shepard, typically enigmatic and remote, is
well-cast as the surly Hammett. And Bates, a former SMU
student making her feature-length directing debut here
handles the filmmaking chores with a confident,
unself-conscious air that doesn't run over Jerry
Megan Rosenfield, Washington Post:
Sam Shepard looks remarkably like pictures of
Hammett, who had a white crew cut and a tall, lean
frame... The supporting players - a portly Laurence
Luckinbill as Hellman's Washington lawyer, Joseph Rauh,
and Neuwirth - compliment the excellent Shepard and
Tom Walter, Commercial Appeal:
Putting complexity on the screen always is risky,
but Dash and Lilly manages to make sense of the
relationship. It is helped enormously by the presence of
Sam Shepard and Judy Davis in the title roles.
Shepard is laconic and mysterious as Hammett, the
man who invented hard-boiled detective fiction... Davis
certainly doesn't look like Hellman, who charitably
could be described as unattractive. But she was
seductive, and Davis certainly has that down pat.
Nancy Jalasca Randle, Chicago
A&E's "Dash and Lilly" follows the couple through
the glittering Jazz Age, the fast times of Prohibition,
and the moral testing of the McCarthy era. Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright and actor Sam Shepard
gives a haunting performance as Hammett; Judy Davis
plays Hellman to the hilt.
Minneapollis Star Tribune:
Sam Shepard and Judy Davis do solid work in
the recent A&E movie "Dash and Lilly.
Howard Rosenberg, LA Times:
Stylish and well-acted enough to command your
attention on the Arts & Entertainment network... Playing
an American flawlessly, Australian Judy Davis is all
exposed nerve endings as lusty playwright Lillian
Hellman, author of "The Children's Hour" and "Toys in
the Attic." And Sam Shepard is self-destructively
in disrepair as Dashiell Hammett, one of America's
foremost detective novelists.
Danny Heitman, The Baton Rouge
While they depict Hammett and Hellman as gently
resigned to despair, Shepard and Davis focus on
the couple's volatile chemistry, turning in performances
that skirmish along the border between passion and hate.
Hammett and Hellman were both writers of searing drama,
but as "Dash and Lilly" reminds us, they saved the
biggest scenes for themselves.
Christopher Borrelli, The Blade:
Davis is her wonderfully scathing self. She flies
off the handle better than any actress working today,
while Shepard, tall, thin, a shock of white hair,
comes off like a smashed version of Harrison Ford -
mumbling, flashing a shy smile, forever in love with his
own charm, exploding with a terrible honesty.
Ann Hodges, Houston Chronicle:
Sam Shepard as Dash, Judy Davis as Lilly, and Kathy
Bates behind the camera as director of her first
full-length movie, are three excellent reasons to watch.
But even with such talent at work, the play is still the
thing, and this play is a thing of well-crafted
Laura Fries, Variety:
Bates' directorial debut is visually stunning and
thesps Davis and Shepard are very credible in
Film critic Jimmy Gillman:
Working from Jerry Ludwig’s straightforward script
that thankfully leaves the psycho-babble and pop
psychoanalyzing firmly on the sidelines, it’s a
thoughtfully performed affair by Sam Shepard as
Hammett and Judy Davis as Hellman.