EFFIE GRAY, the new film written by Emma Thompson (who also has a plum role here) and directed by Richard Laxton. The poster at right looks all sunny and bucolic. Don't be fooled: This is one dank, dark film with only an occasional bit of brightness to help us weather Effie's personal and continuing storm. Extremely feminist in its quiet, close-to-the-vest manner, the movie should have you, like poor Effie, eventually ready to climb the walls.
characters and real-life events that have, as we learn while the end credits roll, been tweaked quite a bit to fit the scenario created by Ms Thompson that shows us the life that might have happened to young Effie (played with a pretty good accent and a fine dose of repressed feeling by Dakota Fanning), above and on poster, top left) after she married the prominent art critic, artist, "thinker," and philanthropist John Ruskin when she was around 18 years of age. It ain't pretty. Or kindly. Or in any manner just.
Greg Wise (at right) -- who took Effie as his wife. Ruskin, as portrayed here, is one of the supreme, if initially unintentional male chauvinist villains of all time -- moviewise, at least. Why could he not, would he not, consum-mate his marriage? Of course, we first imagine perhaps he was homo-sexual. But the movie does not give us much evidence of this.
Julie Walters, above left (along with David Suchet, center, as Ruskin's dad), we quickly note this man's utter inability to get out from under his controlling parents.
Tom Sturridge, above), who becomes a kind of quiet champion of Effie, as well as her friend and -- we hope, in time -- something more. But all this takes place in an era in which women were kept down by convention and not least by their very own Queen Victoria, a champion of the "morality" of the time -- or so that is what the world knew of her via public reputation.
James Fox (below, center) playing a long- married pair, Elizabeth and Charles Eastlake, who, as shown here at least, came to have an effect of young Effie.
Claudia Cardinale, below, left) and her son (Italian heart-throb Riccardo Scamarcio, below, right) and she and we get to spend some time viewing the wonder and glory of Venice.
here. And while I sincerely doubt that any sequel is in the works, were one to appear, I'd certainly see it.
Adopt Films and running 108 minutes -- opens this Friday in an unusually wide limited release across much of the country (in 24 of our 50 states). Click here then click on View Theaters and Showtimes to see all scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters listed.