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Monday, April 20, 2009


With it’s free-flowing time shifts* and multiple points-of-narrative-view, British megger Joe Wright tries mightily to honor the Ian McEwan source material about an Upstairs/Downstairs love affair that comes to grief via lies, misunderstanding & the demands of WWII. But divorced from its literary prestige, the tale comes off as a weak sibling to THE GO-BETWEEN/’71 and THESE THREE/’36, with an overblown physical production that wreaks of ENGLISH PATIENT envy (1996). A spectacular Dunkirk sequence knocks your socks off and probably busted the budget, but to what purpose? The film is handsome to look at in a sort of Merchant/Ivory manner; it boasts some fine acting from the principals (if only Keira Knightley could put a few pounds on); there’s even a moving coda that lets Vanessa Redgrave turn a plot device into a living, breathing character, but the moviemakers are like a dummy waiting for their ventriloquist to show up . . . and he never does. *My favorite time-shift places the legendary Jussi Bjorling/Victoria de los Angeles 1955 recording of LA BOHEME onto a gramophone as a 78rpm record in the 1930s. Ah, the power of tru-love.

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