“The Invisible Woman” (2014)
The film starts out in 1883, where Nelly (Felicity Jones) is teaching at a grade school on the coast. She is mounting a production of Charles Dickens play. This brings her back to the memories of when she first met Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes), appearing in a production of one of his plays with her mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) and her sister (Perdita Weeks). Instantly there is a spark between Dickens, who is in his forties and the teenager Nelly. Dickens becomes instantly enchanted with her beauty and charm.
Charles Dickens, during his time, was the most famous person in the world. His books were best sellers, and his book tours sold out every time making him one of the most famous people on the planet. He is married to a woman who rarely speaks, the rather dowdy Catherine (Joanna Scanlan). Their life together seems one of convenience where they don’t even share a bedroom, though at some point, they did have ten children together. Dickens seems to be drawn to Nelly because of her youth but also because she can keep up with him, both physically and verbally. She adores his work and the attention that he gives her. And so, the incredible slow dance of courting in Victorian times begins with Dickens as the pursuer and Nelly the object of his affection but he must proceed with caution so that his marriage stays intact.
The film moves back and forth, mostly spent in the past as the romance between Dickens and Nelly blossoms. The scenes set in 1883 are mostly ones of Nelly, walking about on the beach in what look to be mourning clothing. Even though she has married a young man and has a child, it seems as if she will never get over her affair with Dickens.
Felicity Jones gives a fine performance and the young and sometime naïve Nelly. Jones is quite beautiful and carries herself with the pride and the sometimes naivety of her character. She really stands out, even in a crowd of beautiful actresses preparing for a play.
The problem with the film is Fiennes. Charles Dickens was the rock star of his time, mesmerizing audiences with his readings of his books and appearing larger than life at any event he attended. Fiennes never shows the charisma that Dickens must have had. There is also no chemistry between Fiennes and Jones as their love scenes seem to played out more as two actors playing parts than to irresistible lovers that were meant for each other.
Besides starring in the film, Fiennes also directed the film, and he uses slow pushes into the settings, letting the scenery dominate the actors. The set design and also the costumes do a great job of setting the tone of the film, with Cinematographer Tom Hardy creating scenes that seem to be always filled with a little smoke, even when the sun is shining.
It’s an interesting film but doesn’t quite have the passion that it should have for the romance between two strong individuals. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
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“The Invisible Woman” Website