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In mid-1800s England, Oscar is a young Anglican priest, a misfit and an outcast, but with the soul of an angel. As a boy, even though from a strict Pentecostal family, he felt God told him through a sign to leave his father and his faith and join the Church of England. Lucinda is a teen-aged Australian heiress who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time. She buys a glass factory and has a dream of building a church made almost entirely of glass, and then transporting it to Bellingen, a remote settlement on the north coast. Oscar and Lucinda meet on a ship going to Australia; once there, they are for different reasons ostracized from society, and as a result "join forces" together. Oscar and Lucinda are both passionate gamblers, and Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport the glass church to the Outback safely. Oscar accepts her wager, and this leads to the events that ... Written by
"In order that I exist, two gamblers - one obsessive, one compulsive - must declare themselves."
I don't know what it is about Ralph Fiennes and Booker Prize-winning novels (like 1996's THE ENGLISH PATIENT), but this shows him to have a pretty good track record with them. This novel was extremely difficult to follow, but director Gillian Armstrong, who also did a good job with her adaptation of the more straightforward LITTLE WOMAN, cuts through the confusing storyline to make an entertaining and thoughtful film about gambling, religion, and, of course, love. She and writer Laura Jones can't quite defeat some of the overdone symbolism of the novel (like the glass church), but for the most part, this avoids the stateliness of many literary adaptations by being alive.
Fiennes took awhile to warm up for me as Oscar, because this is a more outwardly nervous character than he's ever played before, and the voice he uses takes getting used to as well. Once I got over that, I enjoyed his performance. But the real star here is Cate Blanchett as Lucinda; she is simply enchanting, and you can really see the fire in her eyes. The supporting cast is excellent as well.
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