Another in an occasional series.
Like Young Cassidy, The Invisible Woman is a biopic about a famous writer. Unlike Young Cassidy, it is really really good.
It’s the story of Charles Dickens and his mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan. Ralph Fiennes directed the movie and plays Dickens; Felicity Jones plays Ternan. I like the way the film captures the complexities of the relationship: this wasn’t a love story. Ternan admired Dickens, but above all she needed money and security; Dickens was fond of Ternan, but above all he needed a young, pretty woman to admire him.
Beyond that, I like that they got Dickens right. Dickens was a creep in his personal life: he was awful to his wife, dismissive of his children . . . but he was also haunted by a dreadful childhood that goes a long way toward explaining the mess he made of things. And there was his art and his public, both of which were more important to him than his wife and children. The film captures that: he is constantly writing, and when he isn’t writing, he is performing.
Finally, the emotional climax of the movie is Ternan’s explication of the alternative endings of Great Expectations. How cool is that?
The movie seems to have been kind of a flop, which is too bad. There are plenty of reasons why, I suppose. It’s not especially romantic; there’s no musical soundtrack (which worked for me); Dickens is probably considered old-fashioned and sentimental. But I found it more satisfying than almost every other movie I’ve seen lately.
(By the way, someday I might start an occasional series of Shakespeare on film. The previous movie that Fiennes directed was a modern-day version of Corialanus, with Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Chastain. That, too, was pretty good. And also kind of a flop. Maybe Fiennes needs to sign on to direct Iron Man 4.)
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