Starring: Dakota Fanning, Greg Wise, Tom Sturridge, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, David Suchet, Russell Tovey
Directed By: Richard Laxton
Written By: Emma Thompson
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 1 hr 48 min
Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) is married off to a wealthy art critic, John Ruskin (Greg Wise), who lives with his parents in London. Effie, barely a woman and new to high society living, initially finds her new role exciting, but that soon turns sour, as life with her new husband John, made socially inept by years of coddling by his possessive parents, is unable to consummate the marriage.
Looking at the poster used to advertise Effie Gray, you’d think Emma Thompson’s contribution beyond writing the screenplay was quite substantial. It’s not – sadly. Not inconsequential mind you, but certainly nothing close to what the promotional material suggests. The trailer too would have you believe Robbie Coltrain, Derek Jacobi and Julie Walters, were major characters in this drama. Again, not quite – unfortunately. So it’s sad the producers of this film felt this story and leading talent weren’t an effective enough draw for audiences. And basically pulled a bait-and-switch.
What starts out as an interesting relationship study between two people clearly unprepared for married life, abruptly gets simplified and becomes two sides of a good vs evil paradigm. The ‘love triangle’ at the center of this biographical drama is also given such a light touch, that it barely seems capable of causing the motivations of its character’s later in the film.
What director Richard Laxton and writer Emma Thompson have created, is arguably too tasteful. They’ve told a 19th century story suitable for 19th century audiences, and haven’t fully exploited the inherent drama therein. Failing to find a nice balance between portraying old world ultra-conservative high society, in a way modern 21st century audiences can fully engage with.
If you’re a fan of Emma Thompson’s writing (she won an Oscar for her adaptation of Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility), and costume dramas, then you’ll probably find this worthy of your time. This movie is rated PG-13, for some adult themes and very brief nudity.
Any film even partially shot in Scotland can’t help but look amazing! This film is better appreciated on a large screen.
Best Moment: << spoiler! >>
Just so we’re clear. I’m not a fan of big name stars showing up in movies as very minor characters. I’ve always found it distracting and pointless. Seriously, couldn’t these roles be given to ‘unknowns’ looking to advance their careers?
That being said, Robbie Coltrain’s brief moment in front of the camera as the Ruskin family doctor, was very entertaining. As it’s one of a the few times we get to see someone take John Ruskin to task for being a crappy husband!