Some people think that sex is overrated.

They’re wrong. But that’s another story…

When individuals possess passionate feelings for each other, it seems a wicked shame not to embrace the delirium.

But sometimes fate intervenes and that ecstatic threshold is never crossed.

The setting is London in 1818. Ambitious fashion designer FANNY BRAWNE (ABBIE CORNISH) becomes acquainted with her neighbour, the legendary poet JOHN KEATS (BEN WHISHAW).

They had a dark tragic romance that lasted three years. Their love was never consummated.

Fanny is initially derisive of Mr. Keats and the friend that shares his lodgings, CHARLES ARMITAGE BROWN (PAUL SCHNEIDER).

Charles teases her relentlessly. His constant harassment has a nasty, bitter edge to it. Naturally, it has mostly to do with the fact that he’s resentful. Fanny doesn’t know that he’s alive and has absolutely no tolerance for him. Charles’ cruelty to Fanny will intensify as she becomes more involved with John.

At the beginning, Fanny has very little interest in literature or writers. She is somewhat disdainful of the men for wasting their youth chasing impossible dreams. Fanny is much too practical to starve for her art.

Her clothing is exquisite and very much in demand. As she reminds them crisply, her creativity provides her with an actual income. That’s a luxury that the boys have yet to experience for themselves.

She gradually finds herself spending more time with John, who is equally serious about his work and his life.

But things are far from simple. Back then, a gentleman needed to have sufficient funds to court any woman he desired. In English society at that particular juncture, no male entertained any thought of an actual relationship unless he had enough money to marry and support a family.

Mr. Keats’ financial future seemed bleak. As their close friendship developed, the pair forged a romantic bond that even calamitous circumstances could not sever.

For John, Fanny was his bright star.

Costume dramas have a tendency to be precious, dry and plodding. This film is the quintessential example.

It’s a hard slog that suffers from a number of difficulties. It has a variety of positive attributes. But that can’t make up for the fact that it’s deeply, devastatingly dull.

The actors are all fantastic. ABBIE CORNISH is magnificent as the quietly stubborn, strong willed Fanny, who is far more emotional and vulnerable than she first appears.

BEN WHISHAW is certainly her equal in terms of performance. He’s an exceptionally charismatic JOHN KEATS. With his big warm eyes and his inviting smile, he draws you in from the opening scene.

KERRY FOX lends solid support as Fanny’s mother.

PAUL SCHNEIDER deserves enormous credit for making his character endlessly watchable. His Scottish accent is perfection.

Charles recklessly seduces a servant girl and gets her pregnant without caring about her welfare or the consequences of his actions. The man is a pig. He should have been whipped until he was dead.

But you have to give him credit for his final breakdown over John’s precarious health. Charles is a villain that’s great fun to hate.

There is so much overwhelming gorgeousness that you could drown in it.

Cinematographer GRIEG FRASER composes shimmering shots of white crysanthemums covered with snow and fields of fragrant deep purple blue bells.

Costume designer JANET PATTERSON does a brilliant job of bringing the period to life. Her wardrobe for Fanny is breathtaking.

It’s a cinematic positive that JANE CAMPION is making films. She’s a unique talent that marches to the beat of her own drummer. Not only is the industry in great need of more female auteurs but it’s also essential to have directors with strong points of view.

Ms. Campion would fulfill all of those requirements. Her movies have a high degree of artistry. But her fanciful eccentric worlds are not always easy to access.

Some members of the audience at the screening last weekend (most of them women) laughed hysterically at several scenes – where the painfully bad emotional histrionics and the artificial situations that the characters were shoehorned into just didn’t make realistic sense.

Even before this postmodern age of inflated irony, it wouldn’t be believable.
The pacing dragged unmercifully.

It’s like having a conversation with a great looking man who turns out to be incredibly boring. You’re highly intrigued, but after a short time you start to float inexorably towards drowsiness.

You just can’t keep your eyes open.

Extravagant beauty and monumental tedium are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts.

BRIGHT STAR is living proof of that.

6 Responses to “BRIGHT STAR **”

  1. Costume dramas have a tendency to be precious, dry and plodding. This film is the quintessential example.

    they also seem to always win uh whatever that category is at oscar thing. yeah that category…

    i avoided the bright star screeening at the houston angelika. but friday i was told by a manager that i could have fit in. she told me about 15 seats were left. so even with my usual lateness i could have managed.

    but i passed.

    i don’t care how much the kids at a.d. rave over this type of stuff or babble about how much they want to see it 10 months before it’s released (really they been talking about bright star for soooooo long). i’m not falling for the scams/they don’t cast a spell (on me)

    really i’d have to be having sex with abbie…or ben to care or fake an interest in this.

    i should watch this just because two guys are very interested/wowed by a female but neither gets to have sex with her???

    i should watch *just* to *support* this bit.

    but no, the mean one gets to have sex/gets a female pregnant. no we need movies in which guys don’t have sex.


    where’re the losers at ??????? oh to be alive…

    Extravagant beauty and monumental tedium are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts.

    but that’s just the thing i expect from an oscar bait movie/especially a period film oscar bait movie.

    really that’s all you can expect…

    rather be dead….

  2. My darling glim…

    I know exactly what you’re saying.

    This is my problem.

    I’ve been a hardened cynic for quite a few years now. I’m a take no prisoners chick with superbly developed hedonistic tendencies. What saves me at the end of the day is my decency as a person and the fact that I’m more emotional than I would prefer to be.

    Sometimes, anyway…

    I’m a real romantic that believes in love. But it’s a slippery damn slope considering the world and people being the way they are. Life can be fabulous. But it can also be quite challenging and difficult.

    What I’m trying to say is: I have no affinity whatsoever for films that are sappy. For all its artistic pretensions it’s quite a cliched mess. I started to nod off in the first half hour and I could barely keep my eyes open throughout.

    I wasn’t that tired. It was the movie.

    *Ahem* Yeah, that category. As in the one with the initials CD???

    But the costumes here are simply mindblowing. ABBIE’S clothes are some of the most gorgeous, eye catching designs I’ve ever seen in a film.

    Well, in fairness to the people at AD and everyone else who’s been wildly anticipating this, the trailers and teasers made it look like something out of a painting.

    There’s beauty all around. I’m someone that responds to that stimuli like a moth to a flame. All of my senses are very acute. But a film has to be more than just sheer loveliness to look at.

    With BS, there’s no there there.

    glim, JOHN and FANNY were together for three years. I’m sure they wanted to have sex. But the times they were living in conspired against them…and then he fell ill.

    I always think that that’s a shame. People that are in love should be able to express their deep feelings for each other in a physical manner. But even today – with all the freedoms that we enjoy – that still happens.

    What’s meant to be is meant to be. If it’s meant to be, then it’s unstoppable.

    There are all kinds of ways that relationships end up. People can feel strongly about each other but for whatever reason it just never gets to that level. Hell, sometimes – through mysterious twists of fate – individuals that are crazy about each other never even get to go out.

    On the other hand, people that aren’t in love quite often have unbelievably passionate sex.

    However, guys still have to adore me regardless. That’s not a contradiction. Infatuation isn’t real love anyway. All of that takes time. Too much time. I’m always in such a hurry.

    But that’s another story…

    I’m all for that as long as there’s mutual respect and caring. A lot of times you can’t even tell until you’re out of it how you actually felt about the other person.

    Were you in love or weren’t you?

    Overpowering attraction feels very much like love. Or at least it does in my world. Hard to tell the difference when you’re as intense as I am. When you’re out of it and you can finally analyze it, you can eventually understand that 60 – 80% of it was just heat.

    But you feel that same desire when it’s real. So it’s tough to get the straight goods. You can’t always know for sure.

    If I’m going to see a modern film where the people are nuts about each other and they never hit the heights, then it had better be bloody impressive.

    This wasn’t.

    As for PAUL SCHNEIDER’S character…

    He was a manipulative jackass. He knew that FANNY would never have him. So he decided to turn his attention to the new maid. He said that he wanted to help her with something and I knew that he was up to no good. She was young and fairly naive….and those are the kinds of women that creeps like that prey on. They pretend to care and feed them some lines – and off they go.

    Back then, a pregnancy out of wedlock could effectively ruin your life. But she seemed happy and it appeared that he was going to take SOME KIND of responsibility for his actions.

    But he was a selfish fool that only gave a damn about himself and his nether regions. He should have been kicked in the teeth until they all broke off.

    When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, a lot of younger girls used to come to me for advice about guys.

    This is what I told them…

    “I don’t give a damn if you think he’s the love of your life (and that you’ll never find another like him) or he’s just someone for the moment.


    Then you won’t have any regrets. If he’s going to pressure you consistently for things that you don’t feel right about, then he’s a selfish creep looking out for his own interests and he’s not the man for you.

    Then you’ll have to dump his ass. End of story.”

    It’s unfortunate. But a lot of silly young women fall into that trap. There’s nothing wrong with making someone you love or care about feel special.

    But we’re not here to please men. We’re here to please ourselves.

    Yeah, you missed nothing, glim. I could have taken a nice, long, refreshing nap and saved the money.

    Wish I had.

  3. *Ahem* Yeah, that category. As in the one with the initials CD???

    yeah, but if cd *only* stood for cease and desist. 🙂
    anyway, as always thanks for the words to absorb.

    i’m gonna reread them. 🙂

  4. My precious lil glimster…

    AMPAS has some rather outdated ideas regarding quality film and awards that are supposedly deserving. I think that they honestly feel that one of the best representations of a superior motion picture is the costume drama.

    Shows off a lot of craftwork – lavish art direction, glorious cinematography, great costumes, serious acting and all of those high toned production values.

    Tons of people are usually employed on these sets. No wonder they keep greenlighting them and throwing various kinds of accolades at them. I guess they’re good for the industry.

    But a lot of them are just dreadfully BORING. I don’t mind sitting through some of them. But so many are pretentious arty garbage.

    The only ones that I’ve ever liked in that genre are the films with subversion and bite that are a little unpredictable and don’t necessarily fit the mold: HOWARDS END, DANGEROUS LIAISONS, THE WINGS OF THE DOVE…

    There is a limit to what gorgeousness can do.

    So you’re gonna reread my words?

    Hardy har har. That deep, huh…?

    Well, if you have any more points to make on this subject, I’ll be around, glim.

    I’m very grateful that anyone reads my stuff. It’s wickedly fabulous that they do.

  5. and you wonder what houston is like

    four star review of BRIGHT STAR

    via the houston chronicle newspaper/gets reprinted on its on line site.

    welcome to houston…

  6. You’ve gotta be kidding me…

    No disrespect intended. But did Ms. Biancolli actually manage to stay awake for the duration?

    Oh, well. Everyone’s entitled, I suppose. But it didn’t rock my world. Not by a long shot.

    Thank you so much, my darling little glimster. You are the peachiest…

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