For people who know nothing about the Ruskin/ Effie/ Millais situation, which was a very unique, scandalous and shocking situation that made Ruskin a laughing stock, it failed miserably. If you are going to pluck stuff from history it really needs to be far more accurate.
Effie Gray (2014)
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For people who know nothing about the Ruskin/ Effie/ Millais situation, which was a very unique, scandalous and shocking situation that made Ruskin a laughing stock, it failed miserably. If you are going to pluck stuff from history it really needs to be far more accurate.
Things then quickly go south (literally and metaphorically) when they move to Denmark Hill, not into a marital home, but Ruskin's parent's. Two things are quickly established. Firstly, that the parents exert an unnaturally high level of control on John and intend to do the same with Effie. Secondly, this is no ordinary marriage - when Effie offers herself to him, he leaves the room. The rest of the film is then concerned with her wrestling with the predicament of her in-laws interference and freeing herself from a loveless relationship, no easy task, especially for the period.
This type of film is very reliant on well-wrought characters. Yet the film seems very lacking in several crucial dimensions. The character of John Ruskin as portrayed here seems relentlessly taciturn and one dimensional, even when discussing the pre-Raphaelite movement, something which should really get his juices flowing. What exactly his problem is with Effie is hinted at but never really explored. Is he impotent? Is he gay? Is he mad, as some seem to believe? There are hints he could be gay, ie there is a scene when he seems to be masturbating in bed, another later when there is a "moment" between him and a young painter, and also his father seems very aware that there is something which could have held him back which they have shielded him from so he could become the famous art critic he became. Effie is clearly expected to play her part in this.
The film mainly focuses naturally, then, on Effie, yet leaves out crucial aspects. We never get enough of a sense of who Effie is, ie who she was before marriage and losing her hair (from sheer neglect, it seems.) So it's difficult to get a sense of the journey she has to go through to liberate herself from a life of misery.
There is a metaphor used for this doomed relationship when they recall a previous conversation about Diana the wood nymph turning into a tree to escape Apollo's clutches. If anything, it cruelly underscores how unlike this romantic Greek myth they really are. The type of possession Effie seems subject to is not sexual but more akin to a pretty bird in a cage. When she then hallucinates about turning into a tree later it does seem to labour this point in a slightly puzzling way.
A bit of light relief is provided in the character of the worldly Lady Eastlake (the Screenwriter Emma Thompson) who seems perceptive towards Effie and sensitive to her plight, yet is strangely surprised on learning the marriage was not consummated. She also seems to provide a broader context to the plight of women during this period, but she is a frustratingly fleeting presence, given that she is a mentor and a revelation to Effie and a catalyst for her deliverance.
The dark heart of the film is certainly Ruskin's mother, played by Julie Walters. Played as a mixture of pompous refinement and thuggery, this is easily the strongest performance.
Those who are not especially interested in the subject matter (ie art, pre-raphaelites etc) will find little to enjoy here. And the writing is not accomplished enough to be genuinely thought provoking. Still, the performances are good and it does hold your interest for the duration. Be warned, though, it's not much of a giggle.
This film tells the story of the love triangle from Effie's point of view. The script was written by Emma Thompson, who also appears in the film in a supporting role. (Thompson appears to have an interest in art; she also produced and starred in "Carrington" about the early twentieth- century painter Dora Carrington). I had always imagined Ruskin's marriage to be a May-December affair between an innocent young girl and a man old enough to be her father, but in fact the age difference between the couple was only nine years. Much of the problem seems to have been that they did not have a home of their own, living with Ruskin's parents who seemed to disapprove of their son's marriage and did not put themselves out to make Effie feel welcome.
The film appears to have divided opinion; I note that the fact that one of the main characters is a painter has prompted some armchair critics to reach for that old "watching paint dry" comparison, which I felt was a trifle unfair. Admittedly the director Richard Laxton does sometimes seem to take an over-leisurely approach to his subject, but there are compensations. The film is mostly visually attractive, especially in the scenes set in Scotland where Laxton appears to have been influenced by Millais' great series of Perthshire landscapes, paintings which rank among his greatest artistic achievements, even though they are much less well known than his earlier Pre-Raphaelite pictures. (Millais can now be seen as one of our greatest 19th century artists, worthy to rank alongside Constable and Turner, but for many years his later work tended to be undervalued following severe contemporary criticism from the likes of Morris and his former champion Ruskin, who had obvious personal motives for denigrating his ex-wife's second husband).
The acting is generally of a high standard, especially from Greg Wise (previously best known to me as Mr Emma Thompson) as Ruskin. As portrayed here, Ruskin emerges not as a deliberately cruel man but as a cold one, an other-worldly intellectual with little interest in women, in love or in sex, and living under the thumb of his domineering mother (played, in another fine performance, by Julie Walters). Wise is rather older than the historical Ruskin would have been during this period of his life, but this does not really matter because the intention seems to have been to show him as a man old before his time. He also achieves a convincing likeness to the historical Ruskin, something which cannot be said for Tom Sturridge as Millais. (Sturridge is dark and bearded, Millais was blond and clean-shaven). The American actress Dakota Fanning plays Effie with a convincing English accent, but shouldn't someone have told her that Effie was actually Scottish? Or was this a deliberate move on the part of the producers to make the film more acceptable to American audiences, who traditionally have difficulties with British regional accents? (It is said that Cheryl Cole's Geordie accent was the real reason behind her sacking from the American version of "The X Factor").
After years of dealing with literary subject-matter, the British "heritage cinema" movement now seems to have moved on to the Victorian art world; Mike Leigh's biography of Turner is to follow shortly. "Effie Gray", however, is not principally about art; Millais is only a subsidiary character. Ultimately it is a psychological study or, to borrow Nigel Nicolson's phrase, a "portrait of a marriage". 6/10
Though the heroine is mainly sad, it's a different emotion compared to Mme Bovary or Portrait of a Lady. All three women are trapped in an unhappy marriage but Effie isn't a disillusioned house wife or manipulated heiress. She's a young woman who only slowly starts to comprehend her situation. Initially, she tries to figure out why she feels unwelcome. After the people around her keep pointing out that she's inadequate, she starts to believe that she is and starts blaming herself. Due to her inexperience and without a friend for sharing her questions, she's not able to acknowledge that her life is "unnatural" and by the time that she recognizes that something is really wrong, she is too mentally abused but she endures.
Ruskin and his parents made me feel angry. I wish it was because they were bad but they are actually stiflingly loving and blindly unaware of their coldness. I wanted to shake some sense in them. When Effie finally starts a divorce, my romantically polluted film mind wanted to see a glorious moment. It's kept small and shared the complexity of feelings. Yes, she was desperate and brave but I suspect that her real life it wasn't a simple emotion that drove her to this decision. It was well depicted as a necessity. Even though, it doesn't lower my respect for this lady in Victorian British Society who claimed her right as a human being.
Dakota Fanning has an interesting mixture of serenity and intensity. It served her well as Jane (in Twilight Saga) but gave her vulnerability in this role an edge. Greg Wise handsome appearance makes is hard to believe that he's terrible man and causes the right confusion. Greg Sturrage could be less nice and could show more passion but still nice to see him after Vanity Fair. And what can I write about the creme of UK actors; Julie Walters, David Suchet, Emma Thompson, James Fox, Derek Jacobi, Robbie Coltrane, other than superb as usual. I loved to see Claudia Cardinale, powerful in her grace of age. The costumes are good, not as lush as in other productions for this time period but then if you ever seen real dresses from that time, they usually are a not that refined. The scenery highlights contrast; crowded London, narrow home life and wide Scottish Highlands. I especially loved the very beautiful shots of Venice.
One day I will watch it again on blue ray because the scenes deserve high quality images. I hope that I will be as moved and angry as I was in the cinema. Well Done Effie, Well Done Emma Thank you for this emotional experience which gave me a couple of life pointers to think about.
She was a little girl being courted by an old man who married her once she became of age but would rather pleasure himself than touch his wife who he married for the purpose of cultural stature it seems. She needs a way out which was quite difficult in the Victorian-era of England.
I love movies set in the Victorian age. The costumes the art direction. The set design did stand out in this pic. It reflected how cold and distant the family this little girl married into was.
Also like how it was set up to be very stage like in the movement of certain people in and out of the scene.
Dakota Fanning did a fine job. Give her an A for always choosing challenging roles vs the easy ones girls her age usually take. I don't see this role doing anything for her career but I could be wrong.
Impress that Emma Thompson wrote it.
But overall the movie was too slow and the plot could have been summed up in a smaller amount of time. It seemed that a lot of the movie was to set up the frustration the little girl had with not being able to perform any "wifely" duties and to make her husband and in-laws hated. I found them strange yes, but the film never quite explains the strangeness, which makes it fall short.
It's based on a real story and It's probably better to hear that than to watch the movie. That'll waste less time and get to the point faster.
"Effie Gray" is based on the true 19th century story of the young Scottish girl's marriage to the noted British art critic, John Ruskin. Effie was 19 at the time and Ruskin, 29. However, Ruskin, played by Greg Wise, is currently 48, which might give some viewers unfamiliar with the history the wrong impression that Ruskin was robbing the cradle.
Thompson ably depicts what happened between Gray and Ruskin. As a naive, inexperienced girl, Effie's dreams of wedded bliss are shattered when she comes to live with Ruskin and his parents at their London estate. Ruskin's mother is particularly critical of Effie and they both are way over protective of their son. It soon becomes clear that Ruskin has no interest in sex and actually tells his new bride that she repulses him.
Effie finds an ally in Lady Elizabeth Eastlake (played by Thompson), wife of the head of the Royal Academy of Arts, who is distressed by the repressive situation Effie faces at the Ruskin household. A trip to Venice does nothing to help the couples' floundering union, and Effie is further distressed by Ruskin's lack of attention, especially when a randy Italian, Rafael, attempts to seduce her.
The rest of this saga focuses on Effie's burgeoning melancholia and a trip up to Scotland, where Ruskin commissions a young painter, Everett Millais, to paint his portrait. Sure enough Effie falls for Millais but nothing gets consummated until Effie returns to London and is encouraged by Lady Elizabeth to sue for the annulment of the marriage on the grounds of her husband's impotence.
That's basically it folks! The story is unusual in that the villain of the piece is hardly guilty of what one might call a "serious infraction." But that's mainly the problem: the stakes are so low that one can hardly get excited about the goings-on here. The actors, screenwriter and cinematographer have acquitted themselves well here as this is a fine film to look at. Nonetheless, it's also a listless affair which I'm not sure was really worth telling.
I was very disappointed by the movie. While Desperate Romantics played the story for laughs, with a comic air, Effie Gray told the story dramatically. Or tried to, rather.
The screenplay only told part of the tale of how Effie married John Ruskin but their marriage was unconsummated. No one knows exactly why, but it seems to be because of Ruskin's disgust with "her person". So perhaps the old story that Ruskin had never seen a naked woman and thought they were smooth like statues, and was repulsed to find on their wedding night that Effie had public hair, may have a grain of truth in it.
The movie shows Effie and John finally getting away from his oppressive parents and living in Venice. However, Ruskin makes it clear that he is in Italy to work and leaves his wife to find her own amusement with Italian officers. Effie resists being seduced by one officer and realizes there's something she isn't getting in her marriage.
However, the pace of the story moves slowly..... very slowly....I kept saying to my husband, when are they getting to the good bits? Finally Ruskin, Effie, and the artist Millais, leave for Scotland for Millais, to paint Ruskin's portrait. At last they were they getting to the dramatic bits when Millais and Effie fall in love.
It was slow.... very slow... lots of scenes of rain and rocks and waterfalls and Ruskin making remarks that turn off Millais. The Ruskin in this movie is so cold and callus there's nothing sympathetic about him. Millais though is Mr Nice Guy without much depth to his character.
And that's about it. Effie goes to see her friend (played by Emma Thompson) who discreetly arranges a lawyer for Effie, Effie invites her younger sister to visit her in London, Effie leaves the house with her sister, saying they are going to visit their mother in Scotland, and Effie serves Ruskin with annulment papers. The end.
Where was the drama of the annulment? In this movie there is only a brief scene where Ruskin and his parents shut the door on the lawyer after the papers are given to him. There's no mention of the struggles Effie had to get the annulment through the courts, no mention of how she and Millais married a year after the annulment was granted, and no mention of how Effie was then not permitted to attend any occasion with Queen Victoria, as a woman who had been previously married could not be allowed in the presence of the Queen. This movie was a missed opportunity that took a gripping and fascinating story and turned the major characters one dimensional. Ruskin is a fruitcake, Millais Mr Nice Guy and Effie is an Innocent Victim. Shame- with a better screenplay and tighter direction this could have been a revealing drama about Victorian England behind closed doors. Too bad the script didn't allow any real drama to develop, and like Ruskin shied away from nakedness (There is a scene with Effie spying Millais taking a bath in a lake. Nice to have some full male nudity for the ladies. Alas, he is seen from the back and from a distance.) There's no risk of showing characters' raw and stripped emotions. There's no schmutz here- unlike in Desperate Romantics, which, with all its playing the historical facts with a light touch, led the audience to really care for Effie, Millais, and art in the nineteenth century.
The first half is dull like John Ruskin. There are snippets of goodness from Walters and Thompson. Fanning is captured by the costume drama. Sturridge starts to make himself known at the midpoint. The slow pacing really kills this. Society has imprisoned Effie and the narrative has imprisoned this movie. One way to empower Effie would be to make her more compelling and more capable in the artistic world. Is John Ruskin supposed to be closeted and can they make that part of the story? This movie needs something to energize it and spice it up.
Effie is stuck in a loveless marriage... Her husband is an art critic... Completely under the thumb of his demanding parents... Who insist he stays at home e.g, forget about the newlyweds getting a place of their own. Her new partner is obsessed with his work, to the point of barely acknowledging her existence. He doesn't even show any interest in consummating their nuptials, for instance... The first night he sees her naked, he bursts into tears and runs out the room. Hmm... Can you say 'issues'?
Then, during an impromptu trip to Venice, she runs into a young painter who is everything her hubby is not... empathic, fun-loving, and deeply in love with her. Sadly, she's stuck with Mr Grump, for the simple reason that if she did split up with him, it would ruin her family name... And besides, getting a divorce back in the 19th century was SLIGHTLY more difficult than it is now. The situation is complicated further by a strange illness she has, which involves copious amounts of hair loss. Hmm... Who'd have though boredom and enforced virginity would have such a toll on your health?
With Effie Gray, you get the distinct impression that lots of the scenes which involve people pottering about in front of beautiful vistas, and staring in the distance while the music swells in the background, could have been dramatically cut... To no great loss of the plot. My theory is, some self-inflated 'important' movies such as this almost feel obligated to unnaturally expand the length beyond what the script requires, to make it FEEL more epic. This tends to not work (It certainly doesn't here) and just leaves quite a bit of dead air.
Still, as I mentioned, the cast full of stalwarts such as Julie Walters and Emma Thompson all do their part to keep things ticking over nicely, and Dakota Fanning does the uphill trajectory of her career no harm at all with an emotionally wrought performance, backed up with a dead-on English accent. In fact, there's not a lot wrong here that couldn't have been avoided with the judicious use of a metaphorical pair of scissors. About 20 minutes off the top should do it, luv.
As it stands, I was mildly interested when I should have been enthralled. Less it sometimes more, ya know? 6/10
The movie is well-paced, quiet, and stylistically appropriate. Dakota Fanning does a wonderful job of portraying Effie's quiet despair, and you do forget that she is an American actor (her accent is good). Derek Jacobi makes a guest turn, towards the end, and, It's always a pleasure to see Emma Thompson in anything, let alone in a vehicle for a screenplay that she has written.
Well worth seeing.
It's obvious from almost the beginning that the domineering parents don't like Effie. Nothing new about this plot -- been there and done that. Then we learn that something is clearly wrong with Ruskin, the mama's boy, who won't have sex with his wife.
This story line goes on for an hour or so, and then we are introduced to a painter who captures Effie's heart -- now it's another version of the Forsyte Saga -- but we don't actually see any love scene.
Then Effie finally goes to the lawyer and finds out she can get an annulment, and the movie essentially ends with the lawyer serving the divorce papers.
We looked this up in Wikipedia. The story as presented in the movie is essentially true and accurate, but the "real" story goes on to a public scandal over this divorce with the re-marriage to the painter.
The summary on IMDb indicates this will be about this "scandalous" love triangle. We learn for the first hour about two sides of the triangle, and we meet the third side in the second hour, but nothing about the scandal. This could have been a great movie with lawyers fighting in court, newspapers chasing Ruskin, etc. Instead, Emman Thompson simply wrote a screenplay that strips this historic episode of any dramatic interest.
In the small art theater where we saw this, my wife and I were the only ones in the audience. The projectionist was just about ready to lock the door and go home. After see this move, we understand why.
Unfortunately the opening scenes weren't promising, with some wooden acting from the actress playing Effie (why not cast a British actress? A stilted false accent obviously affected her performance) Also. the actor playing Ruskin has one expression and one tone of voice throughout the film.
It doesn't get much better and carries on slowly, dull and boring with slow, boring performances from most of the cast (with the exception of David Suchet).
There are a few things unexplained: what was the medicine Ruskin's mother gave Effie that made her sleepy/ ill? And why did she give it? Why did Ruskin senior say to Ruskin, we warned you about that girl yet you married her? Why did the Ruskins seem unhappy at the Eastlakes visit?
It actually picks up towards the very end (yes, I kept watching) when Effie confides in Lady Eastlake (a very orange and tanned Ms Thompson - completely wrong look for the time). And things finally move on. This is about 15 minutes before the end. The story should have started here and continued with her next marriage.
Apparently the film had a huge budget (spent on what?) and recouped a mere fraction. I'm not surprised. The poor acting and script lets it down. A poor example of British film making.
Such was the problem of Euphemia "Effie" Gray. She was a Scottish girl of 19 who married 28-year-old family friend and renowned English art critic John Ruskin in 1848. Ruskin, however, never consummated the marriage and treated her in a manner that she described as "overbearing". After suffering in silence for years, she got support from some influential individuals and succeeded in having her marriage annulled. This meant some degree of social ostracism, but at least she was able to seek out a happy marriage and have a family. Her story has been told in a silent film, a short film, in radio plays, stage plays and an opera, in a short story and in a book, on TV, and now, in the feature-length motion picture "Effie Gray" (PG-13, 1:44).
Dakota Fanning plays the title character in the film, written by (and co-starring) Emma Thompson, who has previously won an Oscar for acting and another for screen writing. Fanning plays Effie as full of youthful optimism when we see her leaving rural Scotland for her wedding to John Ruskin (Greg Wise) and her new life in the big city of London. The reality of her situation quickly sets in. Her in-laws don't think Effie is good enough for their son and are afraid that she's in it for the family money and the prestige of being married to a famous art critic. Effie has trouble adjusting to her new role, speaking up when she's expected to be quiet, and humbly trying to help when she is told it is not her place. She's basically expected to be seen and not heard. Effie is not okay with that, but she might have been able to live with it if her husband showed her some respect, or even a little affection.
Effie's marriage was in trouble from the very beginning. We see a discretely filmed and heartbreaking scene on Effie's wedding night when Ruskin barely looks at his wife and even leaves his bedroom when she comes to him in girlish innocence and vulnerability. For reasons that are speculated on in the film and by historians to this day, Ruskin never consummates the marriage. This leaves Effie feeling lonely and unwanted, feelings that are compounded when Ruskin treats their contrasting personalities as a problem caused by Effie. The couple drifts apart further during an extended stay in Venice where Ruskin spends his time writing and Effie spends her time socializing and site seeing. We see her slowly sink into depression and even become physically ill. The couple travels to her native Scotland for her health and are joined by up-and-coming painter John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge), who is there to paint Ruskin's portrait. Living in the same cottage as the couple, Millais sees first-hand what Effie is dealing with and encourages her to leave her husband. When she finally opens up to a concerned society woman, Lady Eastlake (Thompson), she receives the help she needs, but it's not that simple. Effie has some tough decisions to make and a tough road ahead including the prospect of being a social pariah for the rest of her life, with no guarantee that her freedom will actually make her life better.
"Effie Gray" is a simple, but engaging story. It deepens the understanding of what it was like to be a woman in the 19th century and shows us how far women have come in western society. Some audience members may wish the film showed more of Effie's story, but, contrary to the film's title, Thompson's script isn't as much a biopic as a portrait of one young woman's struggle for her right to be happy. Making a movie with such a narrow focus allows for a certain depth in the plot and the freedom to explore a very small number of issues, but also slows the pace at which the story develops. Thompson has every right to choose to tell Effie's story in this way, as I have the right to feel disappointed at not seeing the dramatic moments of Effie's story that occurred after the movie's script runs out. The film is beautifully shot, nicely-acted and well-written, even if it feels incomplete. "B"
Poor Ethie. And you're stuck in his parents' house and have no occupation or influence, while your famous hubby knocks up his next lecture/art critique tome. What's a Victorian girl to do? Find and bed a struggling artist currently commissioned to paint a flattering portrait of your soon to be ex.Obs. The End.
After an hour and forty of lushly photographed Scotland and Venice, plus dark - very dark Victorian interiors - the sense of Effie's suffocation is almost overwhelming. Thank God for Derek Jacobie - playing himself, surely - as the divorce solicitor who shows her a way out. Cut. We don't see Effie's new life, but hope it was better than life with the freak- genius, Ruskin. As for his mum, played repressively by Julie Walter, we pray for bad things to happen to her. Often.
So, its a good screenplay by Emma Thomson, effectively realized - apparently after many legal wrangles which threatened to derail this film project and delayed its release. Made me want to get drunk and find out more about the asexual/repressed Ruskin. In that order!
Dakota Fanning, like I saw her yesterday in teen movies, but now she's in a grown up movie. Felt kind of hard to accept, and then after a while begin to like her performance. That does not mean it was a powerful act, somehow convincible to the viewers. That is mainly because of the story. Actually it's a simple story, if it was set in the today's world. For those periods, it was a big affair to deal publicly as well as family's prestige.
The movie's settings and locations were good. As usual in a period drama the costumes are very good. It's always pleasure to learn the history through movies than the school textbooks. Other than that it was an average or just above. The thing is, it was a too slow and a little long movie, thus its not a commercial film. Many people aren't ready to pay watch it in the theatres, that is understood. So in my opinion, it should have been a television movie instead, with sliced into 3-4 episodes. Anyway, not for everyone, but for those who love slow presentations would have a good time.
The basis of the film is a true Victorian scandal of Effie Gray being the first woman to divorce her husband. In 1848 the 29-year-old art and architecture critic, author and painter John Ruskin (Greg Wise) married Euphemia 'Effie' Gray (Dakota Fanning), the beautiful 19-year-old daughter of family friends. After six increasingly unhappy years, Effie fell in love with her husband's protégé the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) and set about having the marriage annulled. What reverberated then and now was that the reason given for ending the union was non- consummation. But what really snagged in the public consciousness was Ruskin's explanation of why he didn't fulfill his marital duties (was he gay, simply repulsed by the fact that Effie has pubic hair unlike the classical female figures of art, etc – questions that have not been answered). Effie struggles with John's overbearing parents (Julie Walters and David Suchet), found solace with the prominent Eastlakes (Emma Thompson and James Fox), a doctor (Robbie Coltrane), and one Travers Twist (Derek Jacobi).
The story is interesting, the characterizations excellent, the sets and scenery and costumes brilliant, and for a period piece this film is excellent. Audiences these days are simply more mature than to be 'shielded' form the facts of an unconsummated marriage and more emphasis could have been given to the fact the Effie was an early women's rights activist.
We are given very little to go on as to why Ruskin would not consummate the marriage, after all Effie is pretty which means either he was turned off by the female body or was homosexual. It probably did not help that Ruskin chose to live with his parents who seemed to have a heavy influence on the adult Ruskin.
Ruskin also encourages his wife to have a developing relationship with his art protégé Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) even if Millais at one point tells Ruskin how this would look to polite society.
The film does not tell you that after the annulment, Effie married Millais and Ruskin never married again.
This is a handsomely mounted leisurely paced film, there is some location filming in Venice but it is rather dreary, inert and conventional.
Wise and Sturridge are not the strongest actors. Fanning though is rather good, Derek Jacobi and James Fox are rather wasted in their cameos.
Furthermore, Emma Thompson's script is a lesson on period dialogue given clarity and flow to a modern generation.
This is a film that demands your attention but will not pander to it. If you are not willing to give your mind and heart to it, don't blame the film. It's subtleties and nuances are exquisitely and delicately portrayed and I could find no area of the acting which in any way displeased me.On the contrary.
Now I will grant that I'm an old guy and that I can remember in my childhood echoes of Edwardian-like darkened rooms and repressively collaborative furnishings, so there were echoes in the film I recognised that many a viewer today would not find relevant (hence, perhaps, some of the comments on this board).
But...and it's a pretty big BUT....to describe this film as anything less than superb, a masterpiece, a true pageant of excellence in every department...and done without major company backing...would be a gross misrepresentation of film making.
So, take that Hollywood!! Bam! Klash! Kaboom! So take that all you bigmoney film orgs! Kaboom. Good, indeed superb, films can be made without enormous expenditure and excessive hype. This is one of them.(but don't watch it if you only want to defend Ruskin or suppress the indomitable spirit of womanhood).
Two reasons compelled me to see Effie Gray, the 19th century period piece about the failed marriage of famed art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride, Effie Gray: Emma Thompson wrote it and co-stars; John Ruskin is a hero of mine. Neither reason is satisfied, nor in fact are dynamic people barely present in this boring biopic.
The crux of the conflict is that Ruskin never consummated the marriage; John Everett Millais, the pre-Raphaelite painter plays too little a part in this adaptation; and Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning, looking innocently pre-Raphaelite) is so underwritten as to make me question what such a wit as Thompson was thinking. Or maybe she was too busy miscasting Ruskin played by her husband, Greg Wise.
In real life, Ruskin was 29 years old when he married Effie, and Wise is 49, adding another layer of intergenerational distance not even historically accurate. As depicted here, Ruskin is a mama's boy coddled by both parents, actually shielded from social interaction so he can write unimpeded. While mom takes John immediately to a bath when he arrives with his new bride, the bride is left to pass pleasantries with dad as she is clueless yet about how mom will co-opt her every step of the short marriage.
What's boring about these farcical Freudian touches is that they're not even funny or fleshed out, and Thompson gives Ruskin little chance to show the verbal gifts that shot him to the forefront of Victorian art and architecture critics.
Ruskin best expressed what he didn't do for Effie:
"You cannot hammer a girl into anything. She grows as a flower does, she will wither without sun; she will decay in her sheath as a narcissus will if you do not give her air enough; she might fall and defile her head in dust if you leave her without help at some moments in her life; but you cannot fetter her; she must take her own fair form and way if she take any." Sesames and Lilies
By not giving Effie what he says should be done for a girl, Ruskin becomes his own most devastating critic.