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Genre: Drama
Director: Jane Campion
Cast: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Jonathan Aris, Sebastian Armesto, Samuel Roukin
RunTime: 1 hr 59 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.brightstar-movie.com/

Opening Day: 18 February 2010


London 1818:  a secret love affair begins between 23 year old English poet, John Keats, and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, an outspoken student of fashion.   This unlikely pair started at odds; he thinking her a stylish minx, she unimpressed by literature in general.  It was the illness of Keats's younger brother that drew them together. Keats was touched by Fanny's efforts to help and agreed to teach her poetry.  By the time Fanny's alarmed mother and Keats's best friend Brown realised their attachment, the relationship had an unstoppable momentum. Intensely and helplessly absorbed in each other, the young lovers were swept into powerful new sensations, "I have the feeling as if I were dissolving", Keats wrote to her. Together they rode a wave of romantic obsession that deepened as their troubles mounted. Only Keats¡¯s illness proved insurmountable.

Movie Review:

This is one of the rare occasions where I find myself nodding constantly while watching a film. Not with approval, but with dread-induced drowsiness.

If there is an award for Most Nod-worthy Film of 2009, this takes the cake.

Bright Star opens with a needle through cloth, moving in, out, in, out, in, out…

I, not one with patience for domestic chores, should have heeded this caveat because it’s oddly prescient of what’s to come: monotony that feels never-ending.

Even with film festival darling Jane Campion at the helm, Bright Star rarely sparkles. In fact, it hardly registers a blip on the drama-meter. Perhaps the fault lies with the source material.

Although celebrated Romantic poet John Keats’ poems may have captured the imagination of many for decades, the artist and his love affair neither strikes me as fascinating enough to be fertile ground for dramatic mining. And it shows glaringly in the movie. This is despite the best efforts of lanky British up-and-comer Ben Whishaw to act tormented, ruffled and occasionally spasmodic, all of which strangely didn’t tug at my heartstrings. This can be largely due to Campion preferring to waste valuable screen time on stroking cinematographer’s Greig Fraser ego for unearthly beautiful cinematography, than helping the audience get into the enigmatic heart and mind of John Keats.

This passive role feels like a step-down for Whishaw after having grabbed cinephiles by the scruff of their necks with his flashy performances in Brideshead Revisited and Perfume.

Worse, the movie takes the liberty to transplant quite a number of Keat’s poems to the big screen by having the protagonists read them out aloud. They come across as verbose that add tedium to the movie; they don’t even shed light on the motivations of the characters. Simply put, if the audience are interested in Keats’ poems, why would they pay them get read fleetingly onscreen and not slowly savour them at their spare time on soft cover?

But most unforgiveable of all, the movie commits the cardinal sin of pairing two actors who don’t have any chemistry at all. Although Abbie Cornish, an Aussie ingénue now better known as Ryan Philippe’s squeeze, puts her best foot forward as Fanny Brawne, Keats’ flamboyant and outspoken lover, she never really convinces me why she would give all her heart for a boring Joe like Keats. It’s hard to imagine a strong-willed, self-sufficient and brazen heroine like her pining for Keats. What is it about Keats that makes Brawne weak in the knees? We never find out.

The love affair is nothing you’ve not seen before. You’ve seen it in bazillion romantic dramas. It’s just repackaged and regurgitated here to appeal to those who never seem to get enough of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

It’s best summed up here so you can save your money on a more deserving meal with your date (spoilers alert).

Girl from society’s upper crust meets debt-ridden poet and falls in love. They face objections from family and friends. Love affair ends in tragedy.

The saddest thing about the movie is not the tragic ending. It’s in wondering how a movie that squandered buckets of tears from the lead actors and that nearly caused me to smack my gob numerous times while admiring the divine cinematography could turn out so dramatically inert.

Funny that watching a Jane Campion movie can make you feel like you are in a Charlie Kaufman movie. You think you entered a cinema, but come out thinking you just walked out of a photo exhibition with an adjunct poetry recital.

Maybe Bright Star is meant to be a postmodern reading. Hmm. (rubs chin)

Movie Rating:

(Dull doesn’t even describe this. It’s "duuuuuuuhhhhhllllll")

Review by Adrian Sim


. Brideshead Revisited (2009)

. The Young Victoria (2009)

. The Duchess (2008)

. The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

. Becoming Jane (2007)

. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007)

. The Queen (2007)

. Pride & Prejudice (2005)


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