Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review - Bright Star

Early on in Jane Campion’s latest period drama Bright Star, Fannie Brawne says of John Keats’ poem “Endymion” that she could not love it completely. In regards to Miss Campion’s film, I feel somewhat similar, but what prevents me from falling in love with Bright Star is the same thing that causes me to admire it. Being a writer with a terrific sense of how it will play on screen, Campion has developed an elegant yet understated script, placing emphasis on words and subtle facial expressions. Some may mistake this for being dry, but such is not the case. The love in the film is chaste, but this adds to its devastating romanticism. It is more sensual than sexual. That Brawne and Keats never consummate their relationship may be a tad dissatisfying, but it heightens the importance of their intimate conversations, their playful flirting, and of course, the immortal poetry with which Campion gives the film its much-needed flavour.

In keeping with the screenplay’s muted tenderness, the aesthetic qualities of Bright Star are serviceable but not flashy. Janet Patterson’s production design is appropriately minimalist, as is Greig Frasier’s pretty photography. Mark Bradshaw’s music is not immediately memorable, but still lovely. What does draw attention to itself, however, are Patterson’s costumes. Brawne, something of a 19th century fashionista, is often clothed in pinks and reds, helping her to stand out amidst the greys and blues that usually dominate the frame.

But the fancy clothing would be worthless if not filled by a strong actor, and that’s just what Abbie Cornish is. Her performance is the showiest one of the cast, but she never embellishes. Impressive as well is Paul Schneider as Keats’ caddish friend Charles Brown, who is annoyed with Fannie for distracting the brilliant poet from his work.

This is the sort of project that seems right up Oscar’s alley. Noms for Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Cinematography, Score, Art Direction, and Costume Design seem quite probable.

*** out of ****

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