Jan 2, 2011

Bright Star

You might, at one point, get an urge to watch something off Netflix. Something good. And Austin-y (because you're an Jane Austin junky and you know how all Austin films end). And you catch a glimpse of Bright Star and remember that your mom said it got a great review from the New York Times. So you look it up and, truth, it was a really great review. Though, really you should have taken a clue from the line that said it's intensity saves it "from the tidy prison of [a] period drama," since a tidy period drama (read: a happy period drama, with a bow tied around happily ever after) is exactly what you're looking for.

So you download it from Netflix and call your whole family in to watch it.

So you watch it.

And it's an exceptionally well done movie. Beautiful, really. Their are some glorious shots. Like this one:

The actors are exceptional. Everything feels quite real (though I do find it odd when they quote poems to each other), but that real feeling makes it that much more annoying when the entire movie is spent in the dramatic, often depressing, throes of love.
So, when you're dad asks, "How long does this last?"

You find yourself saying, "Until he dies?" And hoping that's pretty soon.

Your prediction turns out to be pretty accurate. Most of the movie they're together and happy, though their happiness is always tinged with foreboding, or apart and dissolving into tears. Like when our main character's little sister (Topsy?) runs down and tells her mother, "Fanny wants a knife." When her mother asks why, Topsy replies, "To kill herself." It turns out Mr. Keats has written only a very short letter, after a long while of not writing any letter at all.

So when you get the urge to watch something good and Austin-y on Netflix, don't watch Bright Star.

As beautiful as it is, it's not worth the tears I--erm, you will, rather--shed when Keats dies and poor Fanny goes into convulsive sobs. Just stick with Austin. You might know all the endings... but the main guy doesn't die. And when the main girl breaks down in convulsive sobs at the end, it's because Edward isn't married after all. (Name that movie?)

Of course, I'm directly clashing with the New York Times in writing this, which feels a bit daring. It's the New York Times. Mark Bittman writes for them. And they're the only newspaper I read.

But I'm really against sad endings even when they're based on true stories and I'm against love that always has despair hanging over it... pretty much always. Anyway, I'm pretty sure no one from the New York Times reads this blog. So... Thought I'd give you a heads up. If you like this movie, I still love you. I just probably won't watch movie with you.


I have now had an hour, a few games of Clue and a chapter of Hornblower to think this over and can view Bright Star with some complacency. While the plot was a bit circular and the characters a bit hard for me to relate to, I still think it was a good movie. I might even have liked it, had I had not been hoping for something a little more cheerful, at least in the beginning and middling parts. So, if you like this movie, I'll still watch a movie with you. But I get to choose the movie.


  1. I bet you would have liked it more if your dad hadn't been sitting there watching it with you. I never enjoy love movies with my hub. He's always saying "How long does this go on?" too.

    I bet you also would have liked it more if you had just had a dramatic break up with the love of your life.

    I haven't seen it though so I can't say. But I too tend to be skeptical of reviews--good and bad.

    Good on you for taking on the New York Times.

  2. That's true, I probably would have liked it a lot more if I was at the end of some great love. Particularly of the dramatic and/or tragic variety. That being the case, though, I hope this doesn't turn into my favorite movie any time soon.

    Romantic movies with my dad... it depends. He actual likes chick-flicks considerably more than my mom as a rule (she goes more for the action movies), but sometimes he'll walk into a room when my friends and I are watching something new and announce (in the priest from Princess Bride's voice) "It true love!"