Thursday, February 18, 2010


A stitch in time

By Edward Copeland
Some movies can give critics the equivalent of writer's block: We really can't find much to say. That's the way I felt after watching Jane Campion's Bright Star. It is a well-made movie, if not a particularly compelling one, and it does contain a strong lead performance from Abbie Cornish, but its failure to engage me on pretty much any level, leaves me at a loss for much to say about it. It's not that it's a particularly bad film or even a particularly mediocre one, it's just comatose.

Aside from The Piano, I've never warmed to most of Campion's work, despite her recent declaration that she "doesn't make shit." I'm not implying that some of Campion's films should be tossed into an excrement pile, but the vast majority of them that I've seen have simply bored me and Bright Star falls into that realm.

Bright Star tells the story of the doomed romance between young Fanny Brawne (the great Cornish) and the legendary 19th-century poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw), though his acclaim didn't come until long after his early death at the age of 25.

I think the real problem with Bright Star may well be the casting of Keats. Paul Schneider portrays Keats' friend, the ever-suspicious Charles Armitage Brown, and he gives a rich, lively performance that puts Whishaw's work to shame. I realize that Keats was a sickly man, but that doesn't mean that the actor playing him should disappear into the scenery. As a result, the romance between Fanny and John almost seems one sided because Cornish gives such a full-bodied performance and Whishaw is so wan.

Still, the scenery that Whishaw disappears into is quite stunning thanks to the work of cinematographer Greig Fraiser and costume designer Janet Patterson, so at least you'll have pretty things to look at should your mind begin to wander as mine did.


Oh my God it was such a bore! I could barely pay attention. I mean two hours of it? It certainly was beautiful, but why can't a film have great aesthetics AND a compelling story? This was a very good summing up of Bright Star! Though I feel we're in the minority.
There were moments whilst watching Campion's soporific "Bright Star" where I found myself wondering, "What film is this?" or "When will it end?"

Amongst so many other annoyances, the Keats/Brown relationship irked and puzzled me no end. Incidentally, what was going on there between Keats and Brown anyway?

It's no wonder Keat's health deteriorated having to endure the presence of one so entirely possessive, intrusive and overbearing as the Brown depicted in this film.

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