Sunday, February 05, 2012

Bright Star

**spoilers ahead**

I actually did something as mentioned previously- I watched "Bright Star" this weekend. I was a little wary, because I really hadn't heard anything complimentary about the film, but I find that to be the best mental state in which to watch movies. I like having low expectations, so that the film has a chance to pleasantly surprise me.

In this case, the movie most definitely surprised me. First off, I wasn't sure about the casting- Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne? According to Wikipedia:

At eighteen, Fanny Brawne “was small, her eyes were blue and often enhanced by blue ribbons in her brown hair; her mouth expressed determination and a sense of humour and her smile was disarming. She was not conventionally beautiful: her nose was a little too aquiline, her face too pale and thin (some called it sallow). But she knew the value of elegance; velvet hats and muslin bonnets, crêpe hats with argus feathers, straw hats embellished with grapes and tartan ribbons: Fanny noticed them all as they came from Paris. She could answer, at a moment’s notice, any question on historical costume. ... Fanny enjoyed music. ... She was an eager politician, fiery in discussion; she was a voluminous reader. ... Indeed, books were her favourite topic of conversation”.

Abbie Cornish is a lot of things, but "small" and "eyes [of] blue" are not among her qualities. She's 5'8" and hazel-eyed. She's also not "pale"- she's healthily tanned. Plus, there are some people in the world that look like they belong in a period piece (Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth," for instance) and some people that do not (Reese Witherspoon in "Vanity Fair"). Abbie Cornish, even with the muted makeup and the period costumes, looked like a modern-day girl playing dress-up. I just think there are some faces that are more suited to ye olden times than others (this is the same for Korean dramas and films, as well- what is considered to be attractive now is not what was attractive back in the day, after all). Her nose, especially- such a lovely nose, but it seems so ... not appropriate ... for Fanny, or anyone else of that time period.

I wouldn't have minded that Abbie Cornish didn't exactly physically resemble Fanny Brawne, except I just didn't think she belonged in a period piece. Add to that the fact that Ben Whishaw (whom I loved in "I'm Not There") is a little wisp of a thing, and suddenly, Abbie Cornish seems bigger than she really is. They just didn't seem to fit together, and I'm more inclined to think that it wasn't through any fault of Whishaw's. I really, really wish that the casting had been different, because it would have made a huge difference (I also didn't really like Paul Schneider as Charles Brown- he drove that accent into the ground. I liked Paul Schneider's performance quite a lot in "Lars and the Real Girl;" I don't know what happened here).

So obviously, I had a lot of issues with casting. I sometimes have a hard time getting over casting issues (anything with Keira Knightley and her weird intonation- I think there's something wrong with her sinuses), but in this case, the movie won me over. It helps that I like the way Keats' poems feel- even if I don't get the gist of them at first, the way he shapes his phrases is just pretty. It also helps that Ben Whishaw, who felt rather flat in the beginning of the film, completely won me over thanks to one particular scene (involving a Valentine). I think he's actually a remarkable actor- quiet, doesn't over-act, but gets his point across.

Most of all, it helped that I really like the poem "Bright Star"- it's the title of the movie, it's recited in the movie, it's a love poem from John to Fanny that is just too sweet. I'll admit it- I'm a sucker for movies (or dramas) that make me cry (I didn't cry a single tear during "The Notebook," so let me just say that my standards are high- I don't just cry at the drop of a hat) and "Bright Star" made me cry for a good hour. I had to keep pausing the movie so I could wipe my eyes and blow my nose.

The film isn't what anyone would call "fun," I think. It's not a romping film, it doesn't have a brisk plot, and it doesn't really have a satisfactory beginning, middle, and end. It's quiet, contemplative, and just lets the actors inhabit the characters (and here is where I mention that I felt that Abbie Cornish wasn't completely comfortable in Fanny's skin (nor was Paul Schneider really inside Charles), whereas Ben Whishaw seemed like he absolutely inhabited John).

I talked to some co-workers (all Korean) about the movie before I watched it, and they told me that it was a "difficult" film. I actually think it's because of the translation- a lot gets lost in translation, even during modern movies, and there must be an even bigger disconnect when translating a period piece into Korean. The romance and the deeper meanings of the words get lost.

I didn't find it difficult- I found it charming and bittersweet. I knew how the film would end (you can't really change John Keats' life, after all) but I was still saddened and leaking tears when Charles Brown came to the Brawnes one evening and told them that John had died. The worst of it was, the film never showed John's difficult last days (an interesting move, as the film started with a glimpse at John's brother, Tom, dying of the same disease, and I could only imagine how it was for John, without a family member or his fiancee to comfort him- Tom, at least, had John). John's farewell to Fanny before he moves to Italy is also his farewell to the audience, as he doesn't appear again in the film. It felt like a loss to me, which I'm sure was intentional- just a shadow of the loss that Fanny must have felt (that Abbie Cornish tried really hard to portray, but didn't quite get right).

I have the movie on my laptop, and I'm sure I'll be watching it again. As well as reading more Keats (I'm currently delving into "Ode to a Nightingale").

It's gotten slightly less cold this week (thank goodness!) so hopefully, I'll stop lazing about and actually do something.

... And is it just me or are there a billion parentheses in this blog entry?? I need to cut down.