The Invisible Woman

joanna-scanlan-in-the-invisible-woman

Over the weekend, our own Christopher Campbell went to bat in a big way for The Wolf of Wall Street co-star Margot Robbie, campaigning to well, start a campaign to get some awards season love for the breakout star in a film laden with talent. Campbell’s claims that Robbie is deserving of recognition for her work in the film are spot-on, as the emerging actress really makes her role as Jordan Belfort’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) second wife her own, turning a bleached-out bimbo into a flinty, funny lady who is one of the few people to get out from underneath Belfort’s abusive thumb by her own agency. Robbie, however, isn’t the only supporting star to endure domestic abuse on the big screen this year in a highly memorable way – elsewhere, Welsh multi-hyphenate Joanna Scanlan worked similar magic in another period piece about a wildly out of control man who ruins lives left and right. In Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman, the personal affairs of Charles Dickens (Fiennes) might not have the same financial implications as Jordan Belfort in WOWS, but the emotion runs deep – at least as it applies to his wife, Catherine Dickens (Scanlan).

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The Invisible Woman

*Editor’s note: Our review of The Invisible Woman originally ran during this year’s NYFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens Christmas day in limited theatrical release.* It’s best to assume that when Ralph Fiennes took on the story of Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and his teen lover Ellen “Nelly” Ternan (Felicity Jones) for his The Invisible Woman, he didn’t intend for the film’s big takeaway to be that the beloved British author was basically a big jerk, at least when it came to matters of the heart. And yet, that’s the unexpected result of the apparently fact-based tale, a “romance” devoid of emotion that fails to capture any of the spirit or intelligence of Dickens’ own works. While the film has some very compelling source material, including a book by Claire Tomalin and a script from Abi Morgan (who penned the wonderful Shame and the laughably bad The Iron Lady), it ultimately falls spectacularly flat. Cold, emotionless, and strangely paced, the film thankfully features breathtaking cinematography and one hell of a supporting performance by the real invisible woman in Dickens’ life – his own wife. But this is meant to be a film about a life-changing romance, and it simply doesn’t deliver on that front, no matter how many times Jones wanders a beach with a haunted expression on her face or Fiennes acts out in a horrible way simply because he’s a man in love.

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Celebrity seems to be the same no matter what century we’re in. Be you Charles Dickens, Elvis Presley, or Miley Cyrus, you’ll be mobbed by regular folk just wanting to say “hi” or to shake your hand or to steal a lock of your hair for some secret voodoo shrine. The opening moments of The Invisible Woman‘s trailer sum this up neatly – Dickens may have died over 140 years ago, but even he lived his life almost entirely in the public eye. Yet from there, The Invisible Woman seems to follow a pretty standard course. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy risks his life and reputation for girl, boy slowly spirals into madness to the sound of foreboding classical music. Title cards proclaiming “He was the greatest writer in the world,” and “His greatest story was the one he could never tell” aren’t winning any novelty points anytime soon. But judging by the strength of Ralph Fiennes as an actor (and now, director) and considering that The Invisible Woman will likely see Fiennes reciting a whole lot of Dickens in fancy Shakespearean tones, expect to be wowed (or at least suitably entertained) by The Invisible Woman. The one drawback? No actual invisible women. That’s flagrant false advertising. Go ahead and watch the trailer below:

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No, no, it’s not a remake of that Chevy Chase movie with a new female star, and it’s not a reimagining of Ralph Ellison’s seminal novel, but Felicity Jones has snapped up an intriguing role in Ralph Fiennes‘ The Invisible Woman. Baz Bamigboye and The Playlist are reporting that Jones has just signed on for the role of Nelly Ternan in the film, mistress of Charles Dickens, which Fiennes will next direct on the heels of his most recent project, Coriolanus. The film is an adaptation of Claire Tomalin‘s non-fiction book of the same name, with a script by tremendously talented Shame and The Iron Lady screenwriter Abi Morgan. The book centers on the real life romance of young Nelly (who was just eighteen when she took up with Dickens) and the writer (who was forty-five and married). Escandalo! Jones reportedly beat out the latest version of the in-consideration shortlist of up-and-coming young actresses, including Carey Mulligan, Abbie Cornish (who continues to appear on these types of lists, and has yet to land a plum role besides the already critically-maligned W.E., which is a damn shame), and Imogen Poots. While Fiennes was once looking to take on the Dickens role, he has since decided to cast someone else, so that should be the next bit of casting information to hit the ‘net.

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Amidst the many things from stage to screen keeping him busy, Ralph Fiennes will be cuddling up to Charles Dickens for two film projects. According to The Daily Mail, he’ll be taking a second shot at directing with The Invisible Woman – a film telling the story of the author’s affair with an 18-year-old girl (when he was at the ripe young age of 45). He’s been meeting with actresses like Imogen Poots, Abbie Cornish and Felicity Jones, but the entire project is still in its earliest phases. There’s always the possibility that he’ll act while directing (like he did with Coriolanus), but at this stage it’s unlikely that he’ll star as Dickens. While he’s aiming to shoot that next Spring or Summer, he’ll be facing Dickens first this Fall as he plays Abel Magwitch in Mike Newell’s adaptation of Great Expectations. More Fiennes is never a bad thing, and if he can deliver on the directing front with the same power he did in his first outing, he may start hearing his name up for awards for work behind the camera as well as in front of it. In the short term, though, it looks like he’ll be responsible for a new resurgence in Dickensian work. Apparently Voldemort is extremely well-read.

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published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C
published: 11.18.2014
B+
published: 11.14.2014
B+


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