Rated PG for thematic elements, some sensuality, brief language and incidental smoking, 119 minutes
Beautiful but sad "Bright Star" worth a look
"Bright Star" is a period romance that's based on the true story of the romance between English poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. The slow-moving but handsome film is exquisitely photographed, sublimely acted by the two attractive leads and superbly directed by "The Piano's" Jane Campion. However, the overarching theme is a sad one, and the pensive tone may keep some away, but it's a must-see for those familiar with Keats work and those who enjoy period romances.
It's London, 1818 and a secret love affair between Keats (Ben Whishaw) and the outspoken pretty girl next door, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). This unlikely pair begin at odds, he thinking her a stylish minx, while she was unimpressed not only by his poetry but also by literature in general. However, when Fanny hears that Keats is nursing his seriously ill younger brother, her efforts to help touches Keats and when she asks him to teach her about poetry he agrees. The poetry soon becomes a romantic remedy that works not only to sort out their differences, but also fuels an impassioned love affair.
When Fanny's alarmed mother (Kerry Fox) and Keats' best friend Charles Armitage Brown (Paul Schneider) finally awake to their attachment, the relationship has unstoppable momentum. Intensely and helplessly absorbed in each other, the young lovers are swept deeply into powerful new sensations. Together they ride a wave of romantic obsession that only deepens as their troubles mounts, especially as Keats himself falls tragically ill.
Campion's "Bright Star" is worth a look for the photography, costumes and performances alone. The story isn't exactly an inviting given its tragic outcome, and while the romance isn't as steamy as it should be, the true story itself is highly romanticized. Whishaw and Cornish have nice chemistry, though Cornish in particular gives a powerful performance as the opinionated girl separated from her lover. Schneider provides some much-needed energy as Keats' best friend, someone who is despised by Brawne and who enjoys teasing her.
"Bright Star" will likely be remembered more for its handsome production come Oscar time, with detailed, elegant costumes and lush photography, and perhaps Cornish, who has a solid chance of being nominated in a poignant turn. The film moves slowly, perhaps too slowly for some and since this thing doesn't turn out well in the end, you'll want to have plenty of tissues with you. The title, by the way, is a reference to a sonnet that Keats wrote while he was with Brawne: "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art."