312) Bright Star (2009) Dir: Jane Campion Date Released: September 2009 Date Seen: September 25, 2009 Rating: 3.5/5
I feel it necessary to note that prior to Dark, er, Bright Star, I had not exposed myself--oh my--to Jane Campion's works or extensively read about her preoccupations or aesthetic. Alls I knew was that I liked me some Keats and I adore me that there Abbie Cornish. I ignored my general disdain for chilly period romances where formality and ceremony tend to overwhelm emotional resonance and it paid off, to some extent. Campion's portrait of doomed romance is so guarded that her attention to detail and refusal to turn the film into a soul-less bit of pandering biopic romance trash like Becoming Jane made even a skeptic like myself interested.
Which isn't to say that I didn't check out emotionally after a while. My pet peeve of being able to admire formal qualities while not being attached to anyone in the film kicked in hard, especially considering the story was about the connection between tragic lovers. It took me 40 minutes to recognize Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne not because she'd gained weight for the role--she still looks gorgeous so who cares--but because I didn't recognize that Somersault girl in a role where her idea of bucking the system was to flaunt gossip by being with the man she loves.
It's telling that Charles Burns (Paul Schneider in another exceptional supporting role), who plays John Keats' (Ben Whishaw) contentious rival and best friend, is, as a foil to Keats, only a manifestation of his wounded pride, a strait-jacketed way of handling the libido if ever there was one. I was probably moved the most when Topper the cat steals Fanny's thunder by swatting at a butterfly while she chokes back tears and tries to explain her depression to her mummy.