With "Bright Star," the movie,what's to rave about: as a director, Jane Campion's choices are brilliant - coupled with the cinematography, staging, settings, use of colors: bright and striking, even in the overcast English countryside. In Campion's eye, we live there - not postured and posed like previous Jane Austen types. We walk with them in the spring meadows; we join them for Christmas dinner party, music and singing - simple, intimate amusements. We are part of the immaculate attention to details like the faded and frayed draperies and upholstered furniture with holes - lovely but showing diminished financial circumstances.
Follow Abbie Cornish, as Fanny, in her proudly hand-made elegant clothing (she never wears the same dress twice), contrasted to obvious threadbare jackets worn by Keats (Ben Whitshaw). Some would say "costuming" but emphasis and placement show Campion's hand and eye.
Fanny stretches out in a field of cornflower-blue flowers, and 7 year old sister Toots wanders through fields of yellow flowers where there is intention of meaning in the ones she picks, and those she discards. We almost see the director's face instead of Fanny's as she pushes her bed against the wall; she knows Keats sleeps on the other side with his bed touching that same wall.
These precious scenes in detail are reminiscent of the movie "Silk." That was another lusciously filmed movie without a plot, and also lacking in character development.
Yes, a fine director, but someone other than Jane Campion should have written the screenplay. This is a film about the poet John Keats in 1819, but it's actually more a film about Fanny Brawne, the young woman, Keats falls in love with. Is Ben Whishaw (Keats) up to conveying the emotions of budding love. He does a lot of soulful laying around in an invalid's repose, but I'm convinced a more sprightly script could have forged emotional fire.
It was Campion's choice to portray Keats as delicate of spirit"but consider how it might have been if we were shown a physically frail man with a robust spirit - conflict provides the punch for a movie. When Jane Campion was interviewed by Charlie Rose on Sept. 16, she spoke of the actual letters to Keats wrote to Fanny.http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10607 We can read some of these letters where he sounds like a man who does not want to be ill. http://www.john-keats.com John Keats would have winced in watching himself as flaccid. John Keats did not want to die.
For the book, "Keats', by Whitbread Prize-winner Andrew Motion, the review by Amazon.com says the book, "stresses the vigor of Keats' character"burying for good the sentimental cliche of a sickly dreamer." http://www.amazon.com/Keats-Andrew-Motion/dp/0374181004
"Bright Star" is a full spectrum away from "Quintin Tarentino's "Inglorious Bastards," as he told Charlie Rose about his concept of reality, on August 21, 2009 - Tarentino does not like biographies; he doesn't think they give the scriptwriter enough latitude. On the other hand, I believe a story is made fascinating by the way a true story is told.
My friend and I later discussed "Bright Star." "So, what do you think?" "It's a dreamy title, but I didn't feel close to the characters"did you?" I shook my head, "It needed more plot." This was real life in 1819; life was quiet, but bucolic can still be memorable - I smiled, thinking of "Lady Chatterley's Lover."
I won't be spoiling the end by telling you - his life inhibited by circumstance, Keats died at 25 from tuberculosis. "I didn't cry, I didn't even think about it," my friend said. My reply, "No one in the audience cried - I don't think we were involved enough for that."
Keats never shook us for our attention. Compare "Bright" to the movie, "Atonement," where even if you don't remember the plot, the characters were really open to view. I would never visit daytime drama"but I do want to feel something toward an actor.
Edie Martin plays Toots, Fanny's 7 year old sister - she is the one I will remember - and a brilliant actress. You see her work and you want to write a character into your script just for her.
Developing the character of Charles Brown (Paul Schneider) would have made the film richer. He played the heavy spoiler, a mean ugly man and Keats' friend and manager - an odd contrast that wasn't explained. Mr. Brown's character cries out for more definitive emotions, perhaps an unrequited sexual attachment to Keats.
Don't say, they didn't do that back then, because they did. This was pre-Victorian and a time of romantic dalliance. People weren't kept away from sex; it was just that they were supposed to marry well, or at least above their station. They wrote and read about romantic love but few married for love.
Why do people say this is an erotic movie - perhaps a matter of semantics.http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10567 Nothing about this movie was erotic as it would relate to physical or emotional sexuality; it attempted to be romantic with the couple mooning deep and delicate gazes, but they were not emotionally intimate. Viewers are attracted to intimacy because it is valued and sought after - these people were up close"but not personal.