Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Sid13 » Sat Oct 10, 2009 9:41 pm

I've seen Bright Star twice now. The first time, I had a very conflicted response, I liked it but was disappointed by it at the same time. I watched it again last night, and I agree with Broken Lyre that it improves on a second viewing. Originally, I would have graded it a C+, but now I give it a B+.

The movie is impeccably crafted. The writing, direction, acting, and editing are good, and the cinematography, the sets and the costumes, are first rate from beginning to end. Unfortunately, the story was not always equal to the style.

Even going into the movie, I had no quarrel with Jane Campion's concept of the story. I knew it'd be impossible to include all the facets of Keats's character in a two hour movie. Some degree of tunnel vision was necessary. But even within its limited scope as a love story, I thought the movie had several flaws.

At first, I thought Fanny's histrionics were overdone. I'm thinking of the scene when she learns that Keats is leaving for the summer, and she weeps in her mother's lap, and tells Keats, "I hate you," and also that where she wants a knife to kill herself after she receives the letter from Keats that he is back in London but is not coming to see her. Later, I considered that part of the problem was that Abbie Cornish is in her mid twenties. When rewatching the movie, I reminded myself that Fanny was only eighteen and nineteen at the time. That sort of extreme emotional reaction then seemed more believable coming from a teenage girl in her first love affair.

I thought Campion strained in emphasizing the contrast between Keats and Brown. Keats the lover was idealized to the point of becoming placid, aloof, while Brown was turned into a buffoon. Afterward, I considered the argument that since it is Fanny's story, we are seeing Keats and Brown through her eyes, and, yes, I can accept that...to a point.

The lack of strong emotion from Keats is not only historically inaccurate, considering the almost pathological intensity of his letters to her, but it has a distancing quality, the last thing the movie needed, as period films inevitably seem remote to begin with.

Brown could have been ridiculed in a more sophisticated manner, as by satire. Too often the movie settled for the easy and cheap laughs of slapstick, as when Brown acts like an ape, or when Keats hits him in the back of the head with the ball.

The distancing quality of the movie was intensified by the tendency not to show scenes directly, even important scenes (Keats's hemorrhage, or his last days in Rome), but by having a character talk about or read a letter about what has happened.

I have a few other minor complaints. I still think it was a mistake to open the movie with a spat between Fanny and Brown, before she has even met Keats, which undermines the fact that the primary source of the antagonism between them was their competition for Keats.

The first time I watched the movie, I was confused by the setting of the opening scene, asking myself, "Why is Keats being antisocial and hiding out in a back room of the Dilkes' house?" It took me a while to figure out that in Campion's alternate universe there was no division between the two halves of Wentworth Place. I suppose she made that decision because it made it easier for her to arrange scenes between Fanny and Keats, but it still annoys me.

While I understand the necessity of showing Fanny as both grieving and moving forward in her life, I found the scene of her dressed in mourning, marching through the snow while she recites the Bright Star sonnet contrived.

On the positive side, I was happy that the movie included so much of Keats's poetry and quotations from his letters, most of it, that final scene aside, seamlessly worked into the story. Also, Campion achieved a good balance in suggesting Keat's circle of friends (Hunt, Reynolds, Severn) and his backstory (his family, the reviews, his summer in Scotland) without providing so much information as would slow the movie.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby BrokenLyre » Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:10 pm

I always appreciate hearing from others about Keats. Thanks Sid13. Just discussing him and his world is a thrill for me because so very few do so in my own world here in NY.

With reference to the comments from Sid13 who writes about the last scene in the movie:

Sid13 wrote: While I understand the necessity of showing Fanny as both grieving and moving forward in her life, I found the scene of her dressed in mourning, marching through the snow while she recites the Bright Star sonnet contrived.


I must comment. Under any analysis a movie is always a result of compositional choices. Fanny did indeed wander the Heath after Keats died. That is a fact of the writings. Whether or not she recited any of his poems while walking is a disputable matter. Campion wanted to bring together Fanny walking while grieving and the dramatic sense of Keats' s poetry on her lips. And she chose to do it in the last scene. It is a poetic statement for sure. I too sense that it was "contrived" as all movies are. But is it too hard to believe that she, in her grief, may have actually walked the Heath while reciting a Keats poem? I think not.

I seem to remember a certain 18 year old boy riding his lonely bike toward home at night, and while grieving, stopping to walk in a field to recite Ode to a Nightingale.
Last edited by BrokenLyre on Thu Oct 15, 2009 6:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Malia » Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:03 pm

Here's a video review by what looks like a local Boston TV channel. The reviewer enjoyed it :) He got one of his facts wrong (he says that Keats was *always* physically fragile--which is completely untrue as we Keatsians know ;)) but otherwise it is a good review.


http://multimedia.boston.com/m/26603345 ... t-star.htm
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Malia » Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:22 pm

Here's an interesting little "behind the scenes" interview with Jane Campion accompanied by behind the scenes footage of the movie.

http://www.moviejungle.com/newsdetails. ... cleid=3253
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Sid13 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 8:14 pm

BrokenLyre wrote:Under any analysis a movie is always a result of compositional choices. Fanny did indeed wander the Heath after Keats died. That is a fact of the writings. Whether or not she recited any of his poems while walking is a disputable matter. Campion wanted to bring together Fanny walking while grieving and the dramatic sense of Keats' s poetry on her lips. And she chose to do it in the last scene. It is a poetic statement for sure. I too sense that it was "contrived" as all movies are. But is it too hard to believe that she, in her grief, may have actually walked the Heath while reciting a Keats poem? I think not.


I agree it is likely that Fanny recited Keats's poetry to herself on her walks, and also that all art is crafted, hence to some degree contrived. My entirely subjective reaction to that final scene was that it seemed a denouement for the sake of having a denouement. Although, in fairness to Campion, I have been thinking about that scene, and I can't come up with any better way to convey the concluding impression that the movie required.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby BrokenLyre » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:42 pm

Very well said sid13. I sense the same, as you have thoughtfully explained it.

How would I have ended it? I probably would NOT have her quoting that poem - as Keats said, "We hate poetry that has a palpable design on us" in his letter to Reynolds in 1818. I think I would have her reading one of his letters or his 1820 book of poems while sitting outside. Fun to think about actually :)
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby dks » Sat Oct 17, 2009 12:13 am

Thank you, BL, for even acknowledging the smattering of a review I posted...I really wish I could've had the chance to see it again :(

I actually searched online the other day for a DVD release date...! I will own that DVD! :wink:
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby BrokenLyre » Sat Oct 17, 2009 4:58 am

I'm sure the DVD version will come out in about 5 months or so. That's my understanding. Maybe sooner for this movie.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Saturn » Sat Oct 17, 2009 7:09 am

:(
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Raphael » Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:05 pm

I've seen the clips and I'm looking forward to the film. It's listed under the "coming soon" section in my local cinema.What is interesting to me, is that I was only saying to someone ( forget who) a couple of weeks ago that I'd never seen a film or drama made about John Keats and I wish there was one. For those of you who have seen it- I have some questions- did the film portray Keats accurately from what we know of him ( his letters and what his friends said about him~) - did the film pay respect to his amazing talent? -did the film show his suffering from consumption and how he cared for his brother Tom? Consumption was such a terrible disease.
I think the actor who plays Keats looks OK but lacks the reddish hair colour of Keats.He doesn't look anything like Keats form what I can see of Keats' portraits.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Saturn » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:17 pm

Welcome to the forum Raphael :D

I have grumbled and hummed and hawed about Ben Wishaw's non-keatsian appearance for quite a while too. It doesn't really bother me that much now, I just want to see the damn thing!
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Malia » Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:43 pm

Raphael wrote:I've seen the clips and I'm looking forward to the film. It's listed under the "coming soon" section in my local cinema.What is interesting to me, is that I was only saying to someone ( forget who) a couple of weeks ago that I'd never seen a film or drama made about John Keats and I wish there was one. For those of you who have seen it- I have some questions- did the film portray Keats accurately from what we know of him ( his letters and what his friends said about him~) - did the film pay respect to his amazing talent? -did the film show his suffering from consumption and how he cared for his brother Tom? Consumption was such a terrible disease.
I think the actor who plays Keats looks OK but lacks the reddish hair colour of Keats.He doesn't look anything like Keats form what I can see of Keats' portraits.


Hi Raphael :)
I'm glad you'll be able to see the movie soon, as it is beautifully rendered. (I've now seen it 3 times!) As far as your questions go, I will tell you that this movie is not so much about *Keats* as it is about Fanny Brawne. The film is from her perspective and so the picture of Keats we get is also from her POV. Keats in this movie is something of an enigma; he is not easy to reach emotionally--however, that isn't to say he's cold or emotionless. Rather, this Keats works extremely hard at reserve. For example, in a scene where you might expect him to be bursting with emotion (usually some sense of pain or loss), his voice might be quite controlled and his body still--but his eyes will be wet with tears and the closer you look, the more attention you give, the more nuance of emotion you will see emanating from the actor.

We get very little back-story on Keats in this film, but I think in many ways he is portrayed with an accurate "spirit"; that is, I can recognize him as Keats, and the director certainly sees him as an empathetic figure, although he does come off as almost ethereal to some degree. The film follows his suffering through the eyes of Fanny, so it is not as direct as you might get if the movie were from his perspective. I thought the way they handled the onslaught of TB was done with grace and reserve in a way that really fit the film.
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby symon » Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:04 am

I'm lucky enough to have just got back from the UK Premiere of 'Bright Star' in Leicester Square (I received an invitation as I'm a member of the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association).

I'd like to sleep on it before saying too much, but I think I loved it! And (inevitably) it made me cry ...

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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby Malia » Tue Oct 20, 2009 12:34 am

Hi Symon :) Yes, please give us your review! So glad you enjoyed it. :D
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Re: Bright Star reviews, ratings etc. *SPOILERS*

Postby BrokenLyre » Tue Oct 20, 2009 4:11 am

Welcome Symon. The movie is wonderful - but more enjoyable if you know the "Keats story" as context for the film. Though such pre-knowledge is very helpful it can also be a curse because we all want to see more on the person of Keats. I agree with Malia in her post prior to mine, so I won't repeat it. I will say that I had to adjust to the story the first time - but was enthralled just to see anything about Keats! The 2nd time I saw it, I narrowed my expectations to fit the film and I FELT it far more. I just let it come to me and I rode the emotional power so to speak. Since I didn't have to figure out what was going on, my 2nd viewing was unmatched in power. The pain in my chest (from holding back sobs) throughout the movie was intense.

I did manage to see it a total of 5 times now (Sorry folks, I can't help myself and I have to show it others). I'm done now since it is leaving theaters this week.

My suggestion: watch it once, wait a few weeks while you adjust your expectations, then see it again and roll with the story. Follow Keats' advice: "O for a life of sensations, rather than of thoughts!" and you'll enjoy it. (Not to say you shouldn't think through it; I just can't do both at the same time!)
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