Bright Star

Jane Campion‘s Bright Star, which screened this morning, is about the subdued and conflicted passions that defined the brief love affair between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and seamstress Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) from 1818 until Keats’ death, at age 25 from tuberculosis, in 1821.

It’s been done quite perfectly — I was especially taken with Greig Fraser‘s Vermeer-lit photography — with immaculate fealty for the textures and tones of early 19th Century London, and a devotion to capturing the kind of love that is achingly conveyed in hand-written notes that are hand delivered by caring young fellows in waistcoats. You know what I mean.

But it struck me nonetheless as too slow and restricted and…well, just too damnably refined. I looked at my watch three times and decided around the two-thirds mark that it should have run 100 rather than 120 minutes. I know — a typical guy reaction, right? The pacing is just right for the time period — it would have felt appalling on some level if it had been shot and cut with haste for haste’s sake — but there’s no getting around the feeling that it’s a too-long sit. It’s basically a Masterpiece Theatre thing that my mother will love. I’m not putting it down on its own terms. I felt nothing but admiration for the various elements.

A journalist friend told me an hour ago that Bright Star will be Oscar nominated in seven or eight categories because it delivers that particular brand of period romance fulfillment that people of a certain persuasion line up for when movies of this sort play the Royal in West Los Angeles and the Lincoln Plaza in Manhattan.