Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bright Star (2009)


Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and John Keats (Ben Whishaw) share an up and down romance over three years before Keats death at the age of 25.

As the credits rolled on this much praised 2009 film, I found myself torn between two extremes. On the one end, Bright Star is easily one of the most beautiful films I have seen in some time. While on the other, the writing and story fail to even come close to that beauty. Spending nearly 1/3rd of its time on pre-romance, Bright Star is a slow evolving tale, that capitalizes on the beauty of those involved, but fails to capitalize on the beauty of their story. Over simplifying, and struggling to really delve in to their relationship, I was struck by how little time, on screen at least, our lovers spend together.

Often separated, only communicating through various writings, Campion seems unsure of how to develop their strong romantic connection. Ultimately Campion settles on a moments approach. Instead of developing, Campion opts to visit a collection of key moments in their romance, show them, and move to the next one. Perhaps it is uncertainty with how to compile 3 years of information, but this approach gives us all of the heart, with none of the context. Which is a shame, as this movie should be far more moving than it truly is. Instead the viewer is left to find the romance in the subtle gestures, and a collection of heartfelt moments that so defined their love. It's there, and romantics will definitely be able to evolve it to full form, but it's never grounded enough to truly hit those emotional cords.

Of course Campion's effort are backed by astounding performances from Abbie Cornish and Paul Schneider, as Keats work friend . Ben Whishaw is great, but is not given nearly enough to really work off, except for a handful of quiet moments. Yet their performances lay the ground work for the emotion that the viewer is to feel. As such we can feel the chemistry being developed, which allows us to buy into the romance, even on the most minute level. This allows Bright Star's runtime to float by, as we go on this journey with the characters, and see how their lives unfolded. Make no mistake about it, this is not a John Keats movie, this is a Fanny Brawne movie.

As beautiful as this film is to watch, it's really a shame the story fails to live up and compare, otherwise this could have been legendary.

5 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Well, 6.75 is not that bad. So I'm guessing you bought the DVD? Hopefully I'll be seeing it at the end of the week. What did you think of Schneider?

Michele Emrath said...

Interesting. I think I'll skip this one. Sounds like a look at the stills might serve my purposes and capture the beauty.


filmgeek said...

I loved this film. It was my number three of 2009 and I thought it was stunning to look at and incredibly romantic. It reminded me a bit of Pride and Prejudice in that the lovers aren't particularly 'involved' yet there is an obvious passion and tenderness.

Univarn said...

@Andrew I think you'll like it a bit more than me. A friend bought the DVD so I tagged along for the watch. Schneider was very good.

@Michele Perhaps. There's some to admire and I think romantics will get a lot out of it. I'm romantic but even my notions couldn't reach that end.

@filmgeek I wanted so badly for it to be like Pride & Prejudice which I loved, but I just couldn't get that feeling. It all just felt so underdeveloped.

Danny King said...

While I agree with a lot of your points about the story, from what I've read, this film is actually a very accurate depiction of what their relationship was like. The slow-moving pace to the film is not necessarily the fault of Campion, but rather the fact that it's just a slow-moving, non-eventful romance. I'm not making excuses for the film, I just think it's worth noting.

As far as the performances, I loved both Cornish and Whishaw, particularly the former. She is excellent in this film, even when she's not talking. She's just so graceful to watch. The score is also beautiful.

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