Review by Jack Foley
JANE Campion’s Bright Star is a beautifully realised look at the relationship between the poet John Keats and his neighbour Fanny Brawn that generally engages without delivering the emotional wallop you may have been anticipating.
Abbie Cornish excels as Brawn, imbuing the character with just the right amount of feistiness and humility, while Ben Whishaw is good as Keats, especially in their early scenes together.
But once their relationship really begins to form, it never really ignites and struggles to really explain the creative spark that it provided for some of the poet’s greatest work.
I’m not entirely sure why, either. Perhaps Whishaw is too restrained as Keats, even during his most intimate, private moments with Cornish.
But his performance seems geared to delivering the tragedy that awaits… and the film appears to be going through the period motions at times.
Campion, for her part, does reward fans of Keats’ poetry with some lovely excerpts, as well as some idyllic backdrops to set his words against (witness Cornish reading his prose in a bluebell field), but she also gets sucked into the need to keep things more arty than flesh and blood, where a little more grit might have benefited.
One performance really worth noting, however, is that of Paul Schneider, who once again crops up with a scene-stealing supporting role as Keats’ best frend and fellow poet Charles Brown, enlivening proceedings whenever he is on-screen and providing a genuinely worthy foil for Cornish’s free-speaking Brawn.
Schneider is a delight and the unsung hero of the movie, building on the excellent work he has already contibuted to films such as Lars & The Real Girl and Away We Go. It can only be a matter of time before he is handed a deserved leading role.
Bright Star is a good film… just not as sweepingly romantic as Keats’ own poems suggest. It’s worth seeing for Cornish and Schneider, as well as some typically imaginative direction from Campion.
Running time: 119mins
UK DVD Release: March 8, 2010
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