Lady Constance Chatterley is married to the handicapped Sir Clifford Chatterley, who was wounded in the First World War. When they move to his family's estate, Constance (Connie) meets ... See full summary »
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Lady Constance Chatterley is married to the handicapped Sir Clifford Chatterley, who was wounded in the First World War. When they move to his family's estate, Constance (Connie) meets their tough-yet-quiet groundskeeper, Oliver Mellors. Soon, she discovers that the source of her unhappiness is from not being fulfilled in love, and in turning to the arms of Mellors, she has a sexual awakening that will change her thoughts forever. Written by
Having read the book in high school, I thought I knew pretty much what I was in for, especially with Ken Russell at the helm. Joely Richardson is a pretty thing, and manages some sympathy for Connie - who just wants to be a decent human being. I was too often aware I was watching her Act, especially when naked. It couldn't have been easy. James Wilby had pretty much perfected the upper class twit, though the vitriolic nastiness he brings to Chatterley is probably the acme of his career. Special mention should be made of Shirley Anne Field's performance as Mrs. Bolton - the nurse who understands Everything - and conveys so much to us without a word. It's a truly marvelous performance.
But the movie belongs to Sean Bean, who gets his teeth in and doesn't let go. Nobody does bitter passion like Bean. He's less affecting in the love scenes than when he's simply trying to defend himself - His lady has no idea what a spectacular risk he's taking. Imagine the conflict is not class but race, and you'll get an idea. "Tar and feathers" was not a joke. The class divisions are laid out, but there's nothing like the sight of him shoveling coal to bring it home. And it's either break his back or starve. On top of all that, he found himself genuinely in love, which was still more frightening. Bean gives it all to us...His fears, his courage, his joys and his humiliations...no actor could be more naked than that.
There's a reason the book was called "Lady Chatterley's Lover." Lady Chatterley had Lawrence's sympathy, but the lover was his hero. Shifting the emphasis to her doesn't quite work. It would be more damaging if Bean wasn't so forceful.
I didn't expect to be so moved by this film. They even got the flower scene right. Lawrence's Mellors was a bit of a bully, too, and that left poor Connie choosing between jerks. Russell gives Connie -- and us -- a much better choice. And I was pleased with the altered ending. Lawrence's vision was awfully bleak, and had no room for Connie to grow up. It makes all the difference.
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