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Bright Star
a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

You could liberate yourself from the goings-on of today for a little while, at least, on seeing a new film that can be appreciated only by relinquishing your grasp from that which makes you and me contemporary. Only then will acclaimed director Jane Campion's "Bright Star" take you back to a point in time that has only advanced about 10 years later into the 19th century as we have now into the 21st. Instead of 2009, "Bright Star" is set in 1818. Yes... no movies, no radio, no internet... no 24/7 news hole to fill. Joys were simpler, then. Seldom was there, what now might be called: "the blackberry crush of a multi-task day."

"Bright Star" is about romance during what the Art community calls the Romantic Period. To say it another way: what's romantic today isn't what romantic meant in the early 19th century. And the enduring poetry of John Keats makes a good argument for that. "A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness."

John Keats's bright star is Fanny Brawne. Moreover, "Bright Star" is about Fanny Brawne, and the affect the 23-year-old Keats made on this young, English seamstress who lived next door with her widowed mother and siblings. It wasn't the artistic genius of this great English poet that first attracted Fanny, but John Keats, the man. What he had already put to paper came later for Fanny, and even later, down through the years, for Romantics---poets or otherwise---to come.

Splashed in natural light on nearly idyllic surroundings with all that is natural---like the flit of butterflies and playfulness of house kittens---the three-year romance of Fanny and John can draw one back to what is called the Regency Era of England for the true story of a love affair that was never consummated. Fanny Brawne lived until she was 65. John Keats succumbed to tuberculosis at 25.

Abbie Cornish

Keats is played by Ben Whishaw, who was in 2007's "I'm Not There". Fanny is played by Abbie Cornish, and since this film is really about Fanny, it's the Australian-born Cornish's to seize, and seize it she does. I remember her well from her role in 2008's "Stop-Loss" with Ryan Philippe. Her part wasn't a large one, but she played it just right, to my way of thinking. The face of Abbie Cornish suggests a combination of features resembling Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet. And Cornish can act as well as either.

Ben Whishaw's turn as Keats is good. But to capture Keats's character as a great, but unrecognized or under-appreciated poet is much, I think, like playing the part of Chopin---another great, yet frail romantic artist who's life was cut short at about the same time. Energy levels for Keats must appear subdued, especially next to the slightly younger, healthier and obstinate Fanny. Some might think Whishaw should've played Keats with a bit more verve.

What is contemporary about "Bright Star" are the burning, yearning emotions of first love... just like today... and the incomprehensible crush of separation and loss.... just like today. Jane Campion celebrates woman, making her film with loving, knowing hands and great attention to detail: A reminder: some things never change, and despite the price... aren't we glad they don't?


"Bright Star" official site.

Opens 10/2 at the AMC Southroads 20 in Tulsa.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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