Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bright Star

While the three guys kept at the chicken plucking, Steve and I headed off to Edina to see Bright Star, Jane Campion's new film that completely rehabilitates John Keats.

This is no blond, curly-headed, pale, frail frilly-shirt-wearing, consumptive, sissy-poet John Keats. He is an ordinary young man, and a poetic genius. He has a sense of humor, is good with children, and in love in a very believable way. And he catches a very bad cold. Romantic, but with that innocence that belongs to the early 19th century. And Fanny Brawne likes fashion, but that doesn't mean she's not also serious. She pines like a girl her age, and is curious and earnest, but not silly. Played by Abbie Cornish, she's also just a bit understated and believable-- both parts are very well cast, if a bit on the anachronistic side, a little too contemporary. Ben Whishaw looked like he could be a British lead singer in a college band. I hope this doesn't make it seem like it's cool to be a poet! ;-)

I have to say it kind of threw me, to see John Keats so, well, healthy. His friend John Brown tries to keep Keats from any distractions, but Keats doesn't seem to suffer so much as languish while writing poetry in the study. Whenever Fanny comes to the door, he seems to be on the couch, so it's hard to see what she's interrupting. The quills are functional, not affectations, and the love-notes exchanged throughout the movie are endearing. All the characters, in fact, are fully realized in the film, and so we get the sense not just of the couple but of a whole family (Kerry Fox as Fanny's mother is particluarly good). Everyone is likeable, and even the tragedy doesn't feel terribly tragic-- well, then again, it was a foregone conclusion.
I did hear someone sniffle behind me, but what I liked best, and what Steve liked, was the tone of the film, not too artsy, not over the top in terms of romance or music, but a story of young love that is recognizable and enjoyable. And the sets and costumes are wonderful, too. I give Jane Campion a lot of credit, for the script and for keeping it simple. The scene where Fanny is in her room with the window open, letting the breeze blow the curtains out and lightly puff her skirts, in the clean, spare room with her beloved on the other side of the wall, will stay with me a long time.

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