Sunday, February 2, 2014

'The Invisible Woman': Worth Seeing

"The Invisible Woman," director/star Ralph Finnes' painfully slow drama about Charles Dickens' illicit love affair, paints a detailed and revealing picture of life at the literary top in Victorian England. It's not pretty and may not even be true, but it is entirely watchable for the feel, the delicately nuanced acting and Finnes' strong direction.

It is playing in Roanoke at the Grandin Theatre (passes accepted).

We know that sexism reigned in the middle of the 19th Century and Victorian England was almost a poster child for it. Add the fact that literary figures like Dickens were like movie stars--and, of course, Dickens was a pretty good amateur actor in addition to being one of England's best known and beloved authors whose readings filled halls.

Throw into this mix a stale marriage to a woman in whom Dickens has no interest, a beautiful young (18) actress who virtually worships the middle-aged author and trouble's a-brewin'. The youngster's (Felicity Jones as Nelly steals the movie) mother (Kristen Scott Thomas who starred with Finnes in "The English Patient" 18 years ago) is all too eager for her to be swept up by the wealthy author, knowing marriage is impossible, because security is vital in this society that devalues woman.

Nelly's life--esepeically after she delivers a stillborn child--becomes that of invisibility and yet another of Dickens cadre of admirers, all at a distance.

This is yet another of those movies--in a season of them, I'm afraid--that has little redeaming value as a story, but like several of the others, it is a tale well told with moviemaking at the top of its form. There is nothing to cheer in "The Invisible Woman," and I'm not even certain you can suggest that Dickens' lifestyle no longer exists. Simply look around.

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