Wednesday, 3 December 2014

REVIEW - EFFIE GRAY (RICHARD LAXTON)


An appropriately airless film, though close and stuffy as a direct result, based on a story that is famed for its sensational origins; Richard Laxton directs the story of Euphemia Gray's marriage to John Ruskin with a subdued style that drains it of all of its potential tawdriness, and thus much of its interest. What seems, initially, to be mere filmmaking flatness does emerge to develop a few notable positive qualities - Gray's cloistered suffering finds a suitable match in Laxton's sombre direction and in the lack of stylistic fussiness. However, what a dreadfully limp and uninviting scenario this is, a tale of a supposedly sprightly soul cooped up, away from comfort and pleasure - a tale that has been told so often before on film. Laxton might have been smart to divulge one of his subject's few encounters with temptation in greater depth, rather than regarding them as fodder for the woe and regret with which Effie Gray is so generously infused. He also might have been smart to coax out of lead actor Dakota Fanning a less reserved performance - she evinces her character's sad desperation most effectively, but not that bolder side that we're informed exists. She perhaps intentionally sets the vibrancy of her work as a child actor to one side, as so frequently in recent years, but it's to the film's detriment. An unnecessary abundance of reverence toward writer and star Emma Thompson frames her strictly minor role as a driving force of the action when she appears, setting the narrative flow astray at a few junctures. Production values are mostly fine, though hair designer Konnie Daniel ought to be ashamed of the ghastly purple monstrosity she's pinned to poor Dakota's head.