The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Bright Star

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Bright Star – Visually Stunning, But Boring Love Story

Bright Star is writer/director Jane Campion’s first film since 2003’s critical, box office failure, In the Cut, and it looks like this latest venture won’t fare any better.  Disappointing is just one of the many fitting adjectives that apply for reasons I will get into. Read on.

Set in 1818 England, the biopic focuses on the romantic, yet doomed true life relationship between two creative individuals, the struggling, penniless poet John Keats (Ben Wishaw) who died of TB at a young age, and his neighbor, the lovely, fashion conscious seamstress/designer Fanny Brawne (Australian actress Abbie Cornish), the eldest daughter of a well to do widow.

Twenty three year old Keats shares a flat with friend and writing companion, the obnoxious Charles Brown (Paul Schneider) who doesn’t approve of his budding relationship with the girl next door, Fanny and continually looks for an opportunity to insult her.  Why Brown finds her a threat is questionable, but it is clear that he is jealous and rivals for Keat’s attention. While much of the film revolves around Brown trying to keep Keats all to himself (was he gay or what?) in between his acts of interference, Keats and Brawne actually get to spend some time together, looking into each other’s eyes, kissing, snuggling up to each other and walking hand in hand through the lush countryside.

There is lots of talk about poetry and how much the poet and the girl next door love each other but could never marry because he is too poor to be able to support her.  Consumed by passion, Keats and Brawne continually pine for each other, but their love is never consummated. Sure, this is a love story, but since the couple never did the “wild thing”, one really can’t call it an affair.

The trouble lies in the fact that the unfolding story becomes monotonous.  Too many sequences involve moping around, looking out windows, reading, and crying over love letters. To say the film is a slow moving, bore is an understatement. I was hoping to see more of the scene stealing feline pet, which had more life in it.

I am a big fan of both romantic period pieces as well as poetry, so I went into the screening of Bright Star with positive expectations, only to be let down.  

I can’t remember the last time I sat through a feature film with a packed audience where continuous groans could be heard and I could see people squirming uncomfortably in their seats.  Several, whose patience were tested to the breaking point, felt forced to get up and leave the theatre.  And, I kid you not; there was one man who had fallen asleep. He was snoring so loud that he caused laughter.

However, Bright Star (the title comes from a poem Keats wrote for his love) is not a total disaster. Visually speaking, the film is a stunner. Each scene is exquisitely framed; the costumes, though occasionally garish as meant to be, are perfectly fitting to the era, and the acting is superb.

John Keats was the poet who professed “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, the opening line to his epic Endymion. It is his most memorable line that has become part of English vernacular. Keat’s poetry definitely moved the soul. Sorry, I can’t say the same for Bright Star which is, unfortunately, dull and easily forgettable.

Feedback is welcome.
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