Movie Review: In which I rant about the lack of good Victorian filmmakers

Posted at Dec 19, 2009 5:07 pm

So my lovely and generous husband suggested an outing to Tel Aviv to see a movie which I had never heard of: Jane Campion’s "Bright Star." I use the adjective "generous" because I am quite aware that watching a Victorian* romance is for my spouse about as pleasant as watching a documentary about whales is for me. *shudders* 

Still, in spite of his oft- voiced disdain for the genre, he was the one who discovered the film and recommended it to my attention. I could not help wondering why I’d never read anything about it; I am weirdly attuned to the swish of petticoats and the clatter of horses’ hooves– unless it’s a period porno I’ve probably seen the production or at least watched clips of it on youtube.

About ten minutes into the film I understood why I’d never heard of this one. The movie was a loosely based romance about John Keats and Fanny Brawne— so loosely based, in fact, that I don’t think even the actors realized who exactly they were playing. The fellow who was cast as Keats was, without a doubt, the least inspired and dullest portrayal of any character anywhere that I have ever seen. (This includes Keira Knightley’s simpering version of Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett- and I didn’t think anything could be worse than that.) I couldn’t picture an original doodle coming from that "Keats", much less the beautiful poetry which the two lovers kept dribbling to each other. He didn’t even seem to love his "muse;" he watched her wring her hands and sob around him with weak, distracted eyes, as if wondering why she was making all that fuss about him. (I was wondering that as well, actually)

And the directing—! Endless shots of blooming English countryside with no action whatsoever; conversations that fizzled into question marks and scenes that appeared to end when the actors simply ran out of lines to say.

I could write another page about the historical and social inaccuracies in that thing, but I’ve already bored myself out of my own righteous rage. I’m just sorry that my poor husband had to sit through that. That would be like me suffering through a two- hour documentary on mating Beluga whales. In slow motion.  With the mute button on.

* ok, so technically this was a Regency romance- not Victorian, but when I review I tend to identify all films b/w 1800-1900 as Victorian, just for simplicity (some people are confused by the term Regency). apologies to anyone who cares.

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