The only thing I did not like about Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner, a film that should have been in the running for Best Picture this year, was its dismissive treatment of art critic John Ruskin. Now the new film Effie Gray, with a decent screenplay written by Emma Thompson (who also wrote Sense and Sensibility and the Nanny McPhee films), piles on the anti-Ruskin wagon, with a look at the unfortunate critic's failed marriage to the title character, eventually annulled because it was never consummated.
Effie Gray, directed by Richard Laxton
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Indeed most of the fun to be had in this rather dour film, in spite of the steady oversight of TV director Richard Laxton and fine art direction, is farther down the cast list. Thompson and James Fox have a couple of delightful scenes as Elizabeth and Charles Eastlake, who preside over the National Gallery. Speaking of women whose lives might sustain enough interest for a feature film, Thompson should perhaps cast her attention on the life of Elizabeth Eastlake, whose work as a writer, artist, and art critic herself is not even mentioned in Effie Gray. Cameo roles by Derek Jacobi and Italian actress Claudia Cardinale (Fellini's 8½) are also worth the wait.
This movie opens today at Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema.