A sufferer of chronic treatment-resistant depression reviews ‘Side Effects’ and is not impressed.

Every now and again, I watch the first half of Side Effects and somewhat wistfully pretend it was a good movie. All the potential for it is there. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) descends into a suicidal depression following her husband’s return from prison for insider trading. When she attempts suicide – twice – her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) reluctantly prescribes a new miracle drug called Ablixa, whose unfortunate tendency to induce sleepwalking leads Emily to stab her husband to death while she sleeps. The consequences of this drag Emily and Jonathan down into the deep water between the Scylla and Charbydis of institutionalisation and prison, where proof that Ablixa was responsible for the murder becomes the only thing that will save both Emily’s sanity and Jonathan’s all-but-destroyed reputation.

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Rooney Mara, who dazzled us so spectacularly in the otherwise-mediocre The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is stunning in this role. Her simultaneously deadpan and stricken face realistically embodies the hunted, yet empty look of depression; and the deep-set hysteria and sluggishness that it inflicts on the human form are evocatively conveyed in the huskiness of her voice and the freneticism of her movements. Some aspects of the script are equally good at conveying what depression can feel like and look like: the constant, torturing knowledge that if things do get better, they’ll almost certainly get bad again at some point in the future; the aversion to standing up because it hurts too much; the way your head feels too heavy for your neck and always makes you want to lean it back against something; the way that death can seem a friend, or at least a pleasant alternative; how things get lost on the way from your brain to your mouth; how you constantly feel like you’re running from something (but never towards something) and how much you want to punch out the teeth of people who claim (meaning well, of course), that they have a fucking clue what you’re going through and presume to give you advice on how to cope. All the pieces are in place for a dark, but cathartic piece of art-house cinema about a woman overcoming the worst thing that this disease can offer a person: having to suffer it while dealing with the loss of someone you love and knowing, all the while, that you’re the one who killed them.

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What we get instead is a descent into far-fetched lunacy when it emerges that Emily isn’t sick at all and is conspiring with her lover and former therapist Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta Jones) to make a killing off Ablixa stocks, which have plummeted since the murder. It’s quite literally a case of ‘I’m a therapist, so I’ll teach you how to be depressed; your husband is all into insider trading, so you can teach me that; we’ll make a lot of money and have lots of sex; and you get to kill the son of a bitch who ruined your life into the bargain.’ Some people call this a clever twist. I call it stigmatising a disease that already has enough of a stigma attached to it in the first place. Sure, there is no such thing as the right not to be offended, and it says clearly in the film that Victoria teaching Emily ‘how to be depressed’ is a long and torturous process. But let’s think about the connection between depression and pretending that still exists in the consciousness of the vast majority of people today; and the implications that a film like this has for this connection.

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We live in a society in which depression is still widely considered an inadequate excuse for not attending work, a function, a meeting or a family gathering.  Often the sufferer will be told to cheer up, to get a grip on themselves and to stop being so full of nonsense. It will sometimes be whispered behind the sufferer’s back that their depression is a synonym for laziness, an excuse to get out of something, or a form of attention-seeking or hypochondria. And in many cases, and this is far and away the worst part of the problem, the sufferer will often believe this themselves, and will subject themselves to the most horrifying forms of mental torture by brazening out whatever hellish occasion they need to attend regardless of how anguished, despairing, frail and exhausted they feel. Many will even manage (somehow) to pretend that everything’s fine in order to save face with other people and with themselves; and none but the most attentive observer will notice that anything’s wrong with them at all.

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Millions of people with depression do this kind of pretending all day every day: we pretend for spouses, for parents, for children, for colleagues, for employees, and for ourselves. We even do it when things get desperate enough for us to call in sick or to stay home because the thought of leaving the house, or even the bed, seems like the equivalent of an apocalypse of the soul. So we lie and say we’ve got the flu or a migraine, because telling the truth exposes us to the infinite variations on ‘cheer up and get a grip’ that are described above. My psychiatrist once said something to me that I’ve never forgotten: ‘If a diabetic collapsed in front of you, would you tell them to cheer up and stop being pathetic? Of course you wouldn’t. So why do people do the same thing with depression? Depression is a disease, just like diabetes is a disease.’ She shocked me, because this very simple, very sensible thought about my own condition had never occurred to me. I don’t for a moment claim to speak for every sufferer of depression, but if this doesn’t even enter the head of someone suffering from depression, then movies like Side Effects aren’t going to generate a whole lot of understanding or empathy from those who do not suffer from it. In a climate in which the links between depression and ‘faking it’ or ‘pretending’ are probably stronger than they ever were, films like Side Effects, that portray depression as something that can be taught and expertly pretended and transform depression into a deception that can be used by a pair of con artists, encourage the myth, however small and careless such encouragement might be. They ensure that the wheel of ‘you’re a hypochondriac ’, ‘cheer up and ‘you’re pretending’ keeps right on turning with no end in sight.

Millions of depressed people are indeed pretending every day of their lives. But we’re not pretending to be sick; we’re pretending to be fine. Perhaps someone should make a movie about that.

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Hysteria (2011): Film Review

Despite numerous unfortunate clichés in both character and plot, almost all of which may be put down to this film’s being a romantic comedy (a genre that Her Ladyship usually abhors), Hysteria is a rather sweet film that somehow, inexplicably, makes you forgive its many faults and enjoy yourself tremendously in the process. Director Tanya Wexler and screenwriters Jonah Lisa Dyer, Stephen Dyer and Howard Gensler somehow manage to turn the invention of the first ever vibrator into a social commentary on West End and East End life in late Victorian London; to address the issue of the repression of women (sexual and otherwise) in the Victorian era; to give us a charming if not-particularly-original love story; and to afford us the opportunity, every now and again, to laugh our heads off at Rupert Everett as he fools around with wires, causes small explosions and reclines on a chaise longue pretending to be Oscar Wilde.

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Doctor Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) has just got himself kicked out of his fifth or sixth hospital for the heinous crime of insisting that germs exist. Desperate for money, and disillusioned with a profession that seems to want to cure people without actually helping them, he determines to find himself an utterly mundane position that won’t lead to any further head-butting with his superiors. Such a position is soon forthcoming at the practice of Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Price), a doctor who specialises in hysteria; hysteria being a polite term for female sexual frustration. Believed by doctors to be an actual disease linked to movements of the uterus (till 1952, Her Ladyship wishes to add); the angry and occasionally insane behaviour that being horny can cause were considered so offensive to the Victorian mentality and so contrary to its conception of womanliness that many of these poor women ended up institutionalised with hysterectomies forcibly performed on them, supposedly for their own good. So, to abate the symptoms of hysteria, a disease that is suffered by ‘half the women in London,’ Doctor Dalrymple spends most of his time bringing women to climax in his consulting rooms with a variety of oils and balms, all the while believing, quite sincerely, that he is performing a perfectly serious medical procedure.

Bless.

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Needless to say that Mortimer turns out to be a natural at this sort of thing, and while he is thrilled to have played so great a part in swelling patient numbers, he is soon beset by constant panic about the blinding pain in his hand; the result, no doubt, of stimulating one clitoris too many. Enter the need for a useful machine, and enter two separate ideals of womanliness to add to poor Mortimer’s troubles: Emily and Charlotte, Doctor Dalrymple’s daughters.

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Emily (Felicity Jones) is, rather predictably, the object of Mortimer’s affections from the very start. Cut from the same cloth as Lucy in Dracula and Laura in The Woman in White, she is the ideal Victorian woman: sweetness, gentleness and submissiveness incarnate. Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal), on the other hand, is a crass suffragist and philanthropist whose ladylike manners have not survived running a settlement house for the poor in the East End. She’s passionate, tomboyish and a bit of a badass, and takes an instant dislike to Mortimer, whom she sees as joining her father in ministering to the needs of spoilt upper-class housewives who suffer from a bogus condition that never seems to affect the women she works with because they’re too busy worrying where their next meal is going to come from. Mortimer and Charlotte predictably spend most of the film driving each other to distraction in a tidal wave of English wit and stringently-denied sexual attraction, but find common ground in their belief that good health and good doctors should be freely available to all those who need it, regardless of social class or occupation. It just takes Mortimer rather longer than Charlotte to realise that he believes this at all.

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The two sisters that are polar opposites; one overly-virtuous, if likeable, the other wildly intelligent and outspoken, is a feature of the romantic comedy genre that has been done to death and could very well have been spared in this film; poor Emily serving little purpose beyond getting in the way despite a half-hearted attempt to give her a mind of her own in the film’s final act; Charlotte clearly intended to resemble every spirited nineteenth-century heroine from Elizabeth Bennett to Marian Halcombe, but so caught up in this business of resembling that she sometimes forgets to be herself. Nevertheless, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance is charming and extremely raw, and she convinces completely as a woman who has no time for one way of life when she has understood how much can be accomplished in another. Her interactions with the residents of her settlement house are disarming and genuine, and she possesses a rare ability to talk to the people she interacts with without seeming to patronise or to distance herself from them on the grounds of her class. She works in frequently-hilarious counterpoint to Mortimer’s buttoned-up and stiff upper lip Victorian-ness, and the sincerity with which she elicits loans and other financial aid to help the poor is both disarming and charismatic.

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The sexual repression of women is quite rightly responsible for a great deal of the darkness and misery that one finds in Victorian literature or in books and films set in the era, and making a romantic comedy with this issue at its heart must have been a challenging idea to bring to fruition. In this regard, Hysteria succeeds very well, and despite the myriad faults and predictability that result from the film’s genre; it is, at the end of the day, a period drama that is extremely funny, touching and just good, clean fun.

Warm Bodies (Film Review)

What am I doing with my life? I’m so pale. I should get out more. I should eat better. My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What’s wrong with me? I just want to connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right, it’s because I’m dead. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I mean, we’re all dead. This girl is dead, that guy is dead. That guy in the corner is definitely dead. Jesus, these guys look awful.

Bittersweet, original and very, very intelligent, Warm Bodies is a not-quite paranormal teen romance for the thinking person. Based on Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name (which has incidentally earned a place at the top of my ‘must read’ list), it’s a cross between a sweeping post-apocalyptic drama and an indie film of the ‘experience everything, love everyone’ persuasion; featuring all the desperation and existentialist angst of the former, as well as the inherent belief in the goodness of humanity that characterises the latter.

After the zombie apocalypse, survivors barricade themselves into a small safe zone surrounded by ‘The Wall,’ where they are able to peter out a militaristic and semi-primitive existence. Children grow into teenagers that carry guns everywhere they go, reject hope and become accustomed to seeing people die on a regular basis. In the miles of empty streets and buildings surrounding The Wall, zombies roam in packs, on the lookout for fresh brains, which usually come in the form of parties of armed volunteers foraging for food or medicine.

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It’s in a dilapidated airport where many zombies go to embrace the spirit of Waiting for Godot that we meet our protagonist R (Nicholas Hoult), an idealistic zombie who can barely remember who he is, but who clings desperately to what it felt like to be human. Though he is a zombie in externals, R has a vivid, emotional and quirky inner life that manifests itself in long, revealing inner monologues and is probably best expressed in his love of vinyl records, which he hoards eagerly and listens to nostalgically; the records becoming the voice that he no longer possesses. His longing for the most basic human connection is exemplified by his relationship with his best friend M (Rob Corddry), with whom he occasionally has grunting matches that he pretends are conversations, and with whom he also goes hunting for brains in the vicinity of The Wall.
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It is while R and company are ambushing and eating a group of heavily-armed teenagers foraging for medicine that a young girl named Julie (Teresa Palmer) leaps out from behind a medicine cabinet firing a shotgun, her hair flying in slow motion, her eyes shining with the thrill of the kill, and R falls immediately and spectacularly in love, rescuing her from being eaten and keeping her safe within the confines of the jumbo jet that he has made his home. Despite a rocky start, the two manage to connect on the most basic human level over the following days, Julie learning that ‘“corpse” is just a word we invented for a state of being that we don’t understand,’; R discovering that love can literally bring the dead back to life.

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The film features an extraordinary performance by Nicholas Hoult, who plays the zombie and human aspects of R’s personality up against each other with great pathos and poignant comedy; his gait, strength and desire for brains spectacular tributes to classical zombie cinema; the moving and sometimes tragic way that his humanity comes bursting through his zombie nature smashing stereotypes to pieces in the most poignant way. His mastery of facial expression enables us to know precisely what R, who can barely speak, is thinking, and works together with his dramatic monologues to create a performance that is exquisite both from a physical and from a psychological aspect.

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Teresa Palmer’s Julie is definitely not cut from the same cloth as the boring, breathtakingly beautiful and devastatingly shallow action movie Barbie dolls who make you think that the weight of the gun in their hands is going to make them topple over at any second. She’s one of the most promising heroines to come out of American cinema in years. Older than her years, she displays the brute survival and emotional numbness of a very young person who has grown up witnessing horrible things on a daily basis and who has a kind of kinship with the weapons she uses that one normally only sees in the more feminist heroines of the fantasy genre. My only complaint is that she sometimes gives the impression of being related to Kristen Stewart, which makes one wonder how she will fare in a different sort of role. John Malkovitch lends a superb charisma to the supporting role of General Grigio, Julie’s father and the leader of the military government, and reinforces the largely youthful energy at the film’s heart with a heady dose of gravity and hard experience.

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Another exceptional thing about the film is how it uses the concept of being a zombie, or ‘being dead’, to transmit a message about people who don’t fit into society; people who, like R, have an extraordinary character and inner life, and so much to give, but whose awkwardness and ‘differentness’ are so intense that these characteristics evolve into a state of being that does not allow them to do so. The dead do walk among us, waiting to find or to be given the strength to come back to life again. The fact that this is accomplished through love makes the film gorgeously heart-warming without being overly sentimental, a considerable relief for cinema goers who dislike having to bring paper bags with them to the movies in case they need to throw up.

Obstinately refusing to confine itself to a single genre, a sure sign of a good film, Warm Bodies combines brilliant acting with a highly intelligent story, and makes you want to watch it again and again.

Stoker (Film Review)

‘My ears hear what others cannot hear. Small faraway things people cannot normally see are visible to me. These senses are the fruits of a lifetime of longing. Longing to be rescued; to be completed. Just as the skirt needs the wind to billow, I’m not formed by things that are of myself alone. I wear my father’s belt tied around my mother’s blouse, and shoes which are from my uncle. This is me. Just as a flower does not choose its colour, we are not responsible for what we have come to be. Only once you realise this do you become free. And to become adult is to become free.’

Stoker is the tale of how some lucky boys and girls are just born with a talent for violence, of the deep, inextricable link between sex and death, and of how the acceptance of both leads to the coming of age of a killer. Park Chan-wook’s psychological thriller shimmers with the intense visual beauty of the poetic everyday and of the grotesque, and, complimented by a stunning performance from Mia Wasikowska and a gorgeous, if flawed, script by first-time screenwriter Wentworth Miller, it is an infinitely more satisfying cinematic experience than The Great Gatsby.

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Mia Wasikowska pushes her considerable command of facial expression to the next level to play India Stoker, a pathologically austere eighteen year old whose father is killed in a car accident on her birthday. This shifting in the balance of her world leads to a near-complete breakdown in her already shaky relationship with her prim, proper and irritating mother (Nicole Kidman) and a skin-crawling, borderline sexual and almost entirely sub-text identification with her uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode), a prodigal son returned home following the news of her father’s death. As the viewer comes to discover Charlie’s proficiency in charming India’s mother and in putting a belt to deadly use, India begins to discover how acting as a silent, and sometimes unknown observer of Charlie’s crimes and other antics can heal not only the loneliness that she feels after her father’s death, but the isolation from other people that has tortured her entire life, and from which her father, and her hunting trips with him were a welcome respite. Through the shedding of blood and the participation in murder, India wakes up inside and becomes alive in every myriad dimension of what the concept implies, from childlike contentment to orgasmic ecstasy.

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Mia Wasikowska is extraordinary, capturing both the boundless delight and the nauseous exhaustion of a person who sees and hears everything in the world but still feels detached from it. Her character remains an enigma till the last moment, her actions impossible to predict, but none of them surprising us: she’s a genuine, entirely contradictory human being. Most of the film’s demanding acting rests on her slender shoulders, and her ability to carry a film in this way at such a young age is testament both to an innate greatness and to the constant progression of it that one finds only too rarely in actresses and actors of similar age. Matthew Goode is creepy in all the necessary ways as Charlie, more nauseating than charming, but nevertheless combining the two in a very effective way; constantly delighted but more often baffled by India, whom he sees as an extension of himself, but whom he is never quite able to capture or tame. The film is rather a waste of Nicole Kidman, her performance an uninteresting specter of her equally uninteresting character in Australia. She nevertheless serves quite adequately as a character whose primary function is to look glacially beautiful and to make us want to slap her.

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It is its penetrating yet delicate visual universe that this film will most likely be remembered for. Shooting the film from India’s perspective is conducive to exquisitely artistic cinematography, the world transformed into an intensely sensual place that can caress you or cut you open. Apart from an unforgivable recourse to cliché in the film’s third act that will mortify attentive viewers, Wentworth Miller’s script is highly intelligent, provocative and questioning, the sheer beauty both of its ideas and of the mere combination of words working in perfect counterpoint to the film’s stunning heightened visuality.

Stoker is a film that was meant to be felt and thought as well as watched, and the ideal way to experience it is to simply relax in your seat and to open your eyes and ears to this broken concave mirror reflection of a transition from girlhood to adulthood.

The Great Gatsby (Film Review)

Fearless, sexy, creative, and yet more to be admired than loved, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is a well-written, well-acted and gorgeous experience for the eyes that almost perfectly juxtaposes respect for a well-loved classic with the willingness to do new and interesting things with it. Sadly, it does lack that X-factor spark of the divine fire that makes great cinema, and tends to drag for perhaps twenty minutes too long.

Much of the film’s action is narrated by Tobey Maguire’s Nick Carraway, who, while seeking treatment for depression, writes of the doomed and ultimately tainted love affair between his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and the enigmatic, tragically optimistic Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), whose parties attract those seeking to indulge in non-stop, near bacchic revelry and to celebrate at the altar of alcohol. Gatsby’s parties merely reflect the general frenzy of a very frenzied, drunken and violently sexed-up era that is inevitably responsible for Nick’s seeking treatment on the grounds that he has been seized by a fierce disgust of everyone and everything. It only takes the film’s duration for the audience to end up feeling exactly the same way, perhaps because we’ve finally seen the suffering, the emptiness and the desperation that clings to this lifestyle, making the living of it a permanently claustrophobic experience.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy.

As far as acting goes, the film is miles away from being DiCaprio’s best performance, but he tackles Gatsby with his usual subtlety, insight and knowledge of character, blazing onto the screen like a firecracker, yet still leaving us wondering if we’ll ever find out who he is. Serene calm, flamboyant hospitability, hopeless love and hysterical desperation are vividly and, most importantly, believably, to be found in the same character at precisely the level of intensity we have come to expect from him. Carey Mulligan is as sweet, and eventually as punchable as her character Daisy; superficiality jostling against the desire for something more; superficiality winning the fight when ‘something more’ actually turns out to be difficult. Tobey Maguire’s performance as Nick is perhaps the most memorable despite his speaking voice being most inappropriate for extensive narration: he is perfectly balanced, his face more evocative than any amount of dialogue; he reaches lovingly for Gatsby’s light, but is never blinded by it; insightful enough both to tell Gatsby when he’s wrong and to continue to see Gatsby’s goodness when forgetting about it would have been much better for him. Joel Edgerton is utterly forgettable in his role as the utterly forgettable Tom Buchanan, and Elizabeth Debicki is mesmerising and magnetic as Jordan Baker, boasting a powerful screen presence that satisfyingly makes one constantly aware of her presence in a scene, even if her role in it is relatively unimportant.

Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway and Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker.

Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway and Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker.

And now for some general issues. The 3D medium accomplishes almost nothing in this film, and those expecting Baz Luhrmann to have demonstrated the correct use of the medium, as Martin Scorsese did in Hugo, will be sorely disappointed. The Great Gatsby would have been a feast for the eyes at precisely the same level without being filmed in 3D. Apart from the obvious artistry of its party and high speed driving scenes, it also produces many wonderfully artistic and achingly beautiful visual moments that appeal gloriously to the senses, notably the scene in which we meet Daisy for the first time, lounging as she does on a couch as a strong wind blows each white curtain in the room inwards, creating a sea of fresh whiteness ushered in on a breeze so strong you almost feel it on your skin. The breathtaking costumes and makeup only add to the sprawling beauty of the film’s art direction, spectres that heighten in colour and in appeal with alcohol and with dance, increasing our willingness to ignore what lies beneath them.

While the film more than meets its visual obligations, the same cannot be said for its auditory ones, its much-hyped soundtrack not putting in much of a noticeable appearance beyond the over-using of Lana Del Rey and the under-using of Florence and the Machine.

I cannot vouch for the film’s accuracy as an adaptation from the book, the last time I tried to read it having alternated between snoozing, wincing and throwing it against the wall, but the script is beautiful and unusually well-structured, giving both the story and the actors room to breathe, and to be.

A film of sweeping and kaleidoscopic beauty, but by no means a great classic in the making, The Great Gatsby is a film with a hole in its heart. It might grab your attention, entertain you or impress you, but it will not move you. This, regrettably, is its ultimate weakness.

The Ten Best Period Drama Quotes, Ever.

10.Emma (1995, Kate Beckinsale version)

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Mr. Knightley: She refused him?

Emma: Yes.

Mr. Knightley: Harriet Smith refused Robert Martin?

Emma: Yes!

Mr. Knightley: Then she’s a greater simpleton than I thought! What is the foolish girl about?

Emma: Oh to be sure, a man always imagines a woman to be ready for anyone who asks her!

Mr. Knightley: Nonsense, a man does not imagine any such thing!

9.Sense and Sensibility (2008)

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Margaret: If I were a brother instead of a sister, I would fight Willoughby and kill him with my sword!

Mrs. Dashwood: Then it’s a good job you’re not, for I should hate to see you hanged for murder.

8.Pride and Prejudice (1995)

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Mrs. Bennet: Well, when you have killed all your own birds, Mr. Bingley, you may come here and shoot as many as you please on Mr. Bennet’s manor!

7.Persuasion (1995)

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Anne: We do not forget you as soon as you forget us. We cannot help ourselves. We live at home, quiet, confined, and our feelings prey upon us. You always have business of some sort or other to take you back into the world.

Captain Harville: I won’t allow it to be any more man’s nature than women’s to be inconstant or to forget those they love or have loved. I believe the reverse. I believe… Let me just observe that all histories are against you, all stories, prose, and verse. I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which did not have something to say on women’s fickleness.

Anne: But they were all written by men.

6.Little Women (1994)

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Beth:  I was never like the rest of you… making plans about the great things I’d do. I never saw myself as anything much. Not a great writer like you.

Jo: Beth, I’m not a great writer.

Beth: But you will be. Oh, Jo, I’ve missed you so. Why does everyone want to go away? I love being home. But I don’t like being left behind. Now I’m the one going ahead. I am not afraid. I can be brave like you. But I know I will be homesick for you, even in heaven.

5.The Wind and the Lion

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Raisuli: To Theodore Roosevelt – you are like the Wind and I like the Lion. You form the Tempest. The sand stings my eyes and the ground is parched. I roar in defiance, but you do not hear. But between us there is a difference. I, like the lion, must remain in my place. While you, like the wind, will never know yours.

4.Doctor Zhivago

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Yevgraf: One day she went away and didn’t come back. She died or vanished somewhere, in one of the labour camps. A nameless number on a list that was afterwards mislaid.

3.Chariots of Fire.

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Harold: It’s an ache. A helplessness. And anger. Sometimes I say to myself, ‘steady on, you’re imagining all this’. But then I catch that look again. Catch it on the edge of a remark. Feel the cold reluctance in a handshake.

2.The Man in the Iron Mask 1998

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Athos: Yes, Raoul is my reason, but not in the way you think. Once I, once all of us, had a dream that we might spend our lives in the service of something greater than ourselves. Aramis had his faith, Porthos his lust for life, D’Artagnan his devotion, and I had Raoul. But we all had a common dream: that we might someday be able to serve a king worthy of the throne. It is what we dreamt, what we bled for, and what we have spent a lifetime waiting to see. I taught Raoul to believe in that dream. And now my son is dead. Now I am here to discover if his life was in vain. And the only person who can answer that question is you.

1.Jane Eyre (2006)

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Jane: I would never forget you. How can you imagine that? What do you think I am? Do you think I’m a machine? That I can bear it? Do you think that because I am poor, plain, obscure and little that I have no heart? That I am without soul? I have as much heart as you and as much soul. And if God had given me some beauty and wealth, he would make it as hard for you to leave me as it is now for me to leave you.

 

 

Don’t Even Bother Arguing: Pride and Prejudice 2005 sucks.

The howls of indignation from fans of the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice have never quite ceased since the day it was announced that there’d be a new film adaptation starring Keira Knightley of the Great Locked Jaw. You can still hear them if you listen hard: the movie is still popping up on TV and being rented by people all over the world innocently thinking ‘it could be good’ or ‘I’ve hated it all four times I’ve seen it, but maybe I’ll like it this time!’ Ooh – I just heard another one!

Her Ladyship is therefore incensed at the presence of people out there who claim to love both adaptations equally or (horror of horrors) to prefer the 2005 version. She declares that such people must either be mad or perverse, and that they pose a serious threat to the prevalence of critical reasoning and good sense. Here’s why.


1. Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennet is intelligent, headstrong and independent minded, but never fails to demonstrate that while she is all of these things, she is also a perfect Regency lady. Simply walking out of Mr. Collins’ proposal and leaving the door open creates an ominous silence that leaves every promise of the ticking bomb that’s about to explode. Keira Knightley, on the other hand, feels the need to raise her voice at Mr. Collins and bolt out of the house before dissolving into fits of tears crying ‘Papa, I can’t marry him. I can’t,’ the whole episode followed by a disgustingly overacted and under-sincere ‘Thank you, Papa,’ when Mr. Bennet refuses his consent. Jennifer Ehle just doesn’t need all this shit for her Lizzy to work: she knows Mr. Bennet isn’t going to force her to marry anyone. With Ehle, we know all this instinctively, because she’s a good actress. With Knightley, it’s rammed down our throats like Mr. Woodhouse’s ‘very little bit of apple tart’ in Emma. And then there’s the first proposal scene. Gods beneath us! What grotesque over-acting and throwing of toys out of cots! You’d think Lizzy and Darcy were a twenty-first century couple rowing over a G-string found between the couch’s cushions, before thinking about having make-up sex (though in Matthew MacFadyen’s defense, he does behave impeccably in the face of this onslaught of mediocrity). In comparison, the scene between Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth almost boils over with emotion and sexual tension with neither of them speaking above a conversational tone. This doesn’t only work better because it’s true to the manners of the time. It works because it’s good acting: it’s the holding back; the threat of explosion, the difficulty of self-control. Good acting is simultaneously the most simple and the most complex reason for Jennifer Ehle’s Lizzy plowing Keira Knightley’s into the ground and sowing her with lime. And walking and reading is the most uncomfortable thing in the world. No one smiles while they’re doing it.

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2. Pride and Prejudice 1995: just like in the book, the Bennets live in a pretty, modest estate, with a small park, that is suitable for the principal inhabitants of a country village that they are. Pride and Prejudice 2005: the Bennets live in poverty and squalor. The house is both falling down and fronted by a yard/pig sty and the washing lines. Pigs and chickens wander freely in and out of the house. Each room in it is shabby, poorly furnished and looks like the back room of a draper’s shop, with material, ribbons, bonnets and crap strewn everywhere. The Bennets are meant to be upper class who struggle with the social requirement that their money not be earned by trade. This is because they don’t have a lot of cash. They’re not meant to be poor: just poor in comparison with the upper class who can actually afford not to work, and of course with the aristocracy. It would be divine to yell ‘Read the fucking book, morons!’ and be done with it, but the real reason is most probably pure, nauseating dumbing down. Most arseholes who go to the movies probably won’t understand this social divide in the upper class; the Bennets having a little park and Bingley having a massive one isn’t simple enough; so let’s just make the Bennets dirt poor! Problem solved!

3. No Louisa Hurst. Caroline Bingley and her oft-forgotten sister Louisa make a terrible (and terrifying) twosome: ‘better pleased with themselves than what they see.’ The 1995 version’s handling of this was masterful, with Caroline and Louisa constantly gossiping and saying awful, if hilarious things about the country bumpkins they suddenly find themselves surrounded with. 2005 merely contented itself to give us Caroline Bingley flying solo and serving as much purpose as nipples on a breastplate. Two bitchy sisters conniving together is so much better than one bitchy sister hanging around in fancy era-inappropriate costumes and being disagreeable to no one in particular.

4. Mr. Wickham. I love Rupert Friend as much as the next fan of The Young Victoria, but when it comes to Pride and Prejudice, what a straw doll! He’s flat and prodigiously boring, sticking to one tone of voice and one facial expression, and his flirting with Keira Knightley in the ribbon shop scene is one of the most cringeworthy things I’ve ever seen (but then it takes two dreadful interpretations to tango). In the BBC version, one is as shocked as Lizzy is to hear Darcy’s story of the whole escapade with Georgiana, and once the little shit (Wickham, not Georgiana) reappears on the scene, it’s all one can do not to aim a brick at the TV and hope it hits him: what obsequiousness and syrupy-sweet arse-kissing! How infinitely punchable he is. On the other hand, the idea of Rupert Friend’s Wickham attempting to extort money from Darcy, trying to elope with Darcy’s sister when it doesn’t happen and then having the misfortune to be forced to marry Lydia, who has no money, is so incredible that one can’t help feeling he must have done all these things by mistake or while sleepwalking.

5.Mr. and Mrs. Bennet being in love. Seriously? The whole point of their relationship is to demonstrate how even the most intelligent person (in this case, Mr. Bennet) can find himself chained for life to a complete fool simply because of a hasty marriage brought on by physical passion. They’re meant to be hopelessly incompatible! Their marriage is a disaster! Austen is making a point here: think with your brain, not with your penis! So why change it? Why?Why? Is this something a modern audience can’t process?

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    6. Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner being so boring. They’re meant to be loveable, wonderfully likeable, sensible people that show how not being upper class (they’re merchant class) doesn’t have anything to do with being a good person (contrast this with Lady Catherine). Hanging around them for such a long time plays a major role in Darcy becoming less of a classist twat. In the 1995 version, they’re adorable: Mr. Gardiner with his enthusiasm for fishing, Mrs. Gardiner so sweet and all-observing. In the 2005 version – boring. Boring statues that act as filler characters so Lizzy can have an excuse to be in Derbyshire. That, regrettably, is the main problem with this movie: ruthlessly compromising on character to achieve…what, exactly?

pride-and-prejudice-97. Turning Mr. Bingley into a dunce. Sure, he’s meant to be really outgoing, sometimes overly-enthusiastic kind of guy, but not this awkward, stuttering wimp who behaves like an extra in a Tim Burton movie. Bingley is always driven by a very strong moral compass and a determination to treat all people well that is admirable, not worthy of ridicule. He’s also exceptionally well-bred, so all this social awkwardness bullshit not only betrays a lack of knowledge of the book, but a lack of knowledge of the era.

8. The final scene between Lizzy and Mr. Bennet during which she divulges Darcy’s role in Lydia’s marriage. In spite of its vomit-inducing bad acting, lack of sincerity and cringeworthy dialogue, WHY would Lizzy tell Mr. Bennet when by her own admission, ‘[Darcy] wouldn’t want it.’ It. Makes. No. Sense. It’s a deviation from the book that serves no purpose, not even explaining to idiots…

Her Ladyship wishes she could continue, but fears she will compromise both her mental and physical health by doing so.

Don’t watch this movie. The pain and the annoyance are simply not worth it.