Neil Labute : USA 2002 : 102 mins

most films too long – rare to find one too short – this could, should be 2hr+ – and probably was at one point

troubled post production, shifted dates – very negative buzz

reality not quite so bad – though problems visible – scenes edited to brevity

what was Labute (in a cinematic career dip, but boosted by London West End acclaim) thinking of? Byatt novel probably unfilmable – good reason why it’s been unadapted for over a decade

unwise attempts to amp up drama (Bonnie and Clyde-of-academe angle touched on, perhaps worth exploring more)

regularly alternates between timeframes (French Lieutenant / Frequency) – but without multiplying impact or illuminating themes

ends up neither one thing nor the other – awkward aspects of period drama (Labute’s not suited – temperament mismatch) – past and present are both ‘zones of meaningful looks’

G.Paltrow and A.Eckhart unfeasibly photogenic (academic!) couple amid suitably scenic locales – sponsored by UK tourist board? / recruiting film for University English Literature departments

condensation of novel’s sprawling plot – Ehle and Headey as Victorian wife and her lesbian lover end up getting short shrift (A.Massey / G.Crowden fare even worse, T.Eve / T.Stephens stuck in absurd ‘villain’ roles)

peak of absurdity – graverobbing altercation – pic never quite recovers, or bothers to even mention the title

some decent stuff here – main 4 all good: pre-Raphaelite J.Ehle, Byronic J.Northam –

often watchable – but no more

title unexplained – presumably with intention of being somehow “ambiguous” (!) – but instead too tempting to wonder whatever possessed Labute?

3rd September, 2002
(seen Warner Bros screening room, Theobald’s Rd, London, 8th August)

with apologies to Dr Hunter S Thompson

by Neil Young
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