Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Bright Star

Bright Star
Review by Matt Starr
“When I turned 50 I thought it was time I made some piece with poetry” were the words of Jane Campion as she answered the first question at the Variety screening of her latest film Bright Star.

    The film takes place in Hampstead, England during the final few years in the life John Keats (Ben Whishaw) with the focus of the story being the relationship between Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). I am going to say right away that this was personally a difficult film for me to get involved in. For some reason I can’t get into romantic period pieces although once in a while an Atonement comes along and I thoroughly enjoy it. However there was something lacking within the screenplay for Bright Star which made it slow at times and difficult to connect to.

    Perhaps the story was lacking a true antagonist? Keats best friend in the film, Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider), is a semi villain in that he tries to keep John and Fanny separated for his own selfish reasons but never in the film does he truly mean harm towards either. The personal scenes of the two main characters are very quiet and sensual where as in most films like this today there are almost always scenes of romantic intensity.

    I can’t fault any of the technical aspects. The costumes are vivid and the scenery eye catching. Bright Star is very well shot with some of the film’s best scenes involving no dialog at all. The performances are all convincing to say the least. Whishaw is more than a believable Keats. Schneider I have always liked (Jesse James, Lars and the Real Girl) and he shows even more range here. Eventually Paul will land a starring role where he can shine.

    The bright star of the film though is indeed the actress playing Keats’ Bright Star. Abbie Cornish is already being compared to Kate Winslet by A.O Scott in the New York Times. Now I won’t make that comparison just yet but Cornish displays tremendous talent here. There is a scene towards the end of the film in which she learns of Keats fate that is as well acted a scene as I have laid my eyes on in some time.

When asked about the scene from an audience member Campion explained that Cornish had been devastated by the loss of fellow Australian and close friend Heath Ledger and that she had been holding in her feelings and finally let it out during filming. She was able to dig down and extract something very deep that you don’t see too often on film. I am eager to see her next performance as well as her other work.

Outside of that grand performance though I have to say I was a little disappointed in the movie. Even though poetry and period films are not on my list of interests I still thought I would have had a greater reaction to the story but it just didn’t happen for me.

3 / 5 stars 

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