REVIEW: The Invisible Woman

28 01 2014

The Invisible WomanLondon Film Festival

I generally try to avoid Victorian-era costume dramas as I usually find them quite stuffy and more attentive to the threads of the clothes than the threads of the story.  I didn’t need a reminder of their mediocrity, but Ralph Fiennes’ “The Invisible Woman” provided one for me anyways.  For nearly two hours, I endured the screen as a runway for the fashions of two-centuries past while a story played out in the background.

Abi Morgan, writer of films as brilliant as “Shame” and as dull as “The Iron Lady,” veers closer to the latter with her script for “The Invisible Woman.”  The movie tells the story of Charles Dickens’ mistress, Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones).  She’s supposedly the true love of his life and an inspiration to his work, but it’s hard to feel any affection for Ternan from Jones’ performance.

Jones is as inaccessible here as she was in the brutal ultra-indie “Like Crazy.”  Ternan shows little emotion throughout the film save a scene where she walks alone on an expansive beach.  Though her silence does reflect the Victorian social norms, it makes for a tough watch with such a distant protagonist.

Fiennes’ Dickens becomes infatuated with Ternan while she is little more than an attractive wallflower in the background of a theatrical production.  They carry out an extended affair in the shadows, as both must protect their reputations, him as a public figure and her as a lady.  I felt as if  “The Invisible Woman” was pulling me to pull for Ternan, but I ultimately sympathized most with Dickens’ matronly wife Catherine.

I guess maybe you ought to call me a Victorian with that set of morals pulling for the married couple over what might be classified as love.  If I admit it, can I stop watching movies set in that era though?  C+2stars





REVIEW: A Christmas Carol

29 11 2009

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” gets the title “timeless” bestowed on it because every year at Christmas, some new version of his story is spawned.  Robert Zemeckis is the latest filmmaker to take a stab at the tale.  Rather than revamp, retool, or recondition the story, he simply uses modern technology to retell it in a fun way that stays true to the source material and keeps the soul intact.  His “A Christmas Carol” bottles up the real spirit of the holiday season like no recent movie and spreads it through the audience.  It really is an empowering feeling to walk out of a movie inspired to put that twenty-dollar bill in the Salvation Army bin, not in the cash register at the mall.

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is probably the second most well-known holiday yarn, weaved into the very fabric of the holiday season itself.  We all know it: the old miser with a heart colder than the snow packed on the London sidewalks gets a wake-up call that changes him.  Prior, Scrooge scoffed at Christmas with a “bah, humbug.”  He scorned those who wanted to care for him and refused to give care to the people that need it the most.  He treats his employee like dirt and gives him wages that amount to little more than that.  But Scrooge gets a visit from three ghosts – the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – that change his perspective by reminding him of the joy that the season used to bring, the plight of those less fortunate, and the bleak future that awaits him if he doesn’t change his ways.  The result is a more tender-hearted man who appreciates Christmas and the giving spirit that accompanies it.

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