Roland Michell is an American scholar trying to make it in the difficult world of British Academia. He has yet to break out from under his mentor's shadow until he finds a pair of love letters that once belonged to one of his idols, a famous Victorian poet. Michell, after some sleuthing, narrows down the suspects to a woman not his wife, another well known Victorian poet. Roland enlists the aid of a Dr. Maud Bailey, an expert on the life of the woman in question. Together they piece together the story of a forbidden love affair, and discover one of their own. They also find themselves in a battle to hold on to their discovery before it falls into the hands of their rival, Fergus Wolfe. Written by
Bailey's driving license has 'Miss Maud' on the line for forenames. UK driving licenses don't have titles or Mr/Mrs/Miss on there. See more »
They say that women change. 'Tis so, but you are ever-constant in your changefulness. Like that still thread of falling river, one from source to last embrace, in the still pool ever-renewed and ever-moving on, from first to last, a myriad water-drops.
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Two love stories unfold simultaneously in this attractive, sensitive, but not wholly successful adaptation of a popular novel. Eckhart plays an American literary researcher in England who stumbles upon some long lost and completely unknown love letters by a Victorian poet (who just happens to be having his centenary celebrated!) He pairs with an icy doctoral researcher (Paltrow) and they begin to piece together a heretofore undiscovered relationship between the married poet (Northam) and a fellow poetess (Ehle) who is involved in a long-standing lesbian love affair. The stories are presented in turns, often accented by some clever setups in which the same settings reveal jumps in time. Eckhart (an immensely appealing actor) took a lot of heat for his role which was originally intended for a British actor. His presence changes the entire flavor of the story as it was written in the source novel, yet he comes across as endearing as ever. Paltrow (an agonizingly overrated actress and overrated beauty) looks like Carolyn Bessette Kennedy only with a rigid, showy English accent. Her attention to the accent and to what she believes her character to be results in an almost robotic portrayal and nothing resembling a human being. The Victorian couple generates both interest and romance, yet isn't given the screen time of the contemporary couple. If a STAR hadn't been placed in the modern story, maybe the focus could have been more even and the Victorian story could have been given a touch more emphasis. Still, Northam and Ehle (who bears a striking resemblance to Meryl Streep) manage to make an impact. What was apparently quite enthralling and romantic on the page has become rather routine and familiar on the screen, though there are some lovely and thoughtful moments throughout. Some of the location scenery is gorgeous (as is Eckhart.) A host of British character actors round out the cast with results ranging from strong (Headey, Stephens) to campy (Eve) to wasted (Aird, Massey.) Someone needs to inform Paltrow that an accent, a bun and a turtleneck don't provide the performance alone. Some commitment, expression, thoughtfulness and especially realism are also in order!
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