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Bright Star

Be forewarned — a movie about a young poet dying of consumption does not have a lot of action. Nor is a romance that takes place in England in the 1820′s particularly tumultuous, erotic or feverish.  Well, John Keats (Paul Whishaw of “I’m Not There”), the then unknown and penniless poet in love with Fanny Brawne (“Candy’s” Abbie Cornish), was feverish, actually to the point of expiration.  And who better to bring this story to the screen than Jane Campion, who’s “The Piano” a story about a mute woman who expresses herself by playing a piano in the rough, untamed back country of New Zealand in the 1850′s garnered 3 Academy Awards, one for her screenplay, as well as nominations for best director and best picture?  Campion knows how to tell a quiet, yet passionate story.

The music in “The Piano” is akin to the poetry in “Bright Star” in it’s ability to creatively express emotion outside of conversation.     The light, witty repartee, the “I love him, I hate him, he doesn’t love me, etc.” we have become so used to in all the Jane Austen films which take place in the same time period is barely present here.  Albeit, John’s close friend, Charles Armitage Brown, played by Paul Schneider (Lars And The Real Girl) like a young Oliver Pratt, jibes Fanny constantly, jealous of John’s affections for her.  And the doubt that occurs at the beginning of any relationship rears its ugly head, but is soon put to rest.

“Bright Star” is purely a story of two very gentle, sweet, well-bred, really darling people falling in love and then losing each other.  And this is a film of poetry.  Perhaps we learn a little about how to construct a poem, how difficult it is to write a poem that is accepted by our day’s critics or for all time.  But Keats’ poems have withstood the test of time.  Since his untimely death, he has become one of the most cherished and influential of the romantic poets.  And we get to hear his poetry recited, not read.  You won’t hear any similarity to the flat voiced, angry, yelling that takes place in the poetry competitions at various cafes and small theaters today.  Poetry should come from the soul; the words tear stained and exultant with sincerity.  “Bright Star” brings us poetry as it should be heard, as it was written by one of the finest.  As an extra bonus, Ms. Fanny sees herself as a fashion designer and when not actually sewing, she models an array of dresses throughout the film.   “Bright Star” is definitely a date movie, but, guys, be prepared to write poems for your ladies afterward.  And a little, consumptive-like cough into a lace trimmed handkerchief from time to time will only add to the effect.

Reviewed by Bonnie Steiger on 19 September 2009

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