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The film follows 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, and the fortunes of her eccentric family, struggling to survive in a decaying English castle. Her father is desperate to repeat the spectacular success of his first novel, but hasn't written a word for 12 years; her exquisite sister Rose can only rail against their fate, and their Bohemian step-mother Topaz is a nudist and no help at all. Salvation comes in the form of their American landlord Simon Cotton and his brother Neil. Although initially repelled by Simon, Rose is determined to make him fall in love with her and succeeds. A wedding is arranged and Cassandra is left on the sidelines as everyone around her is drawn into a maelstrom of interconnected relationships. But events spiral out of control, and before the summer ends she will experience frustrated desire, first love, and a broken heart. Written by
Whenever there is a movie made from a book, there are bound to be shortcuts taken, characters combined or eliminated, adaptations made to make it suitable in size and scope -- but the overall tone should adhere, as best it can, to the source material. On this count, this movie fails miserably. The humor and wit of the book are entirely lacking in this dull melodrama
Romola Garai was well-cast as Cassandra and I'm certain she would have been better (lighter, more witty, less leaden) if she would have had better material. All others were pretty far off the mark, especially Tara Fitzgerald as Topaz and Marc Blucas as Neil. The latter is so wooden and his line readings so flat, I ducked my head in embarrassment for him whenever he opened his mouth to speak. Bill Nighy, so wonderful in other things, was also a grave miscast. None of the bluster and rather humorous pomposity of the character come through in his portrayal -- only neuroses, anger, and self-pity.
Perhaps this wouldn't be such a terrible movie to those unfamiliar with the book. However, if you loved the book I can't see how this film can be anything but
disappointing. The filmmakers who made "Cold Comfort Farm" should have done this one. It required that same light and loving touch. You won't find that here.
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