Angel Deverell comes of age in Edwardian Cheshire knowing she will be a great writer. Rising above her class (her widowed mother has a grocery shop), Angel finds a publisher and a wide audience for her frothy romances. With royalties, she buys an estate, then she's smitten by Esme, a rake from local aristocracy and an artist of dark temperament. She hires Esme's sister Nora, who dotes on her, as a personal assistant, and pursues Esme. Angel is grandly self-centered, coloring her world as if it were one of her novels. When the Great War breaks out and reality begins to trump her will, can Angel hold on to her man and her public? Written by
Hmmmm... if the reviews and comments I've seen are any indication, melodrama is as divisive as ever. I found Ozon's approach admirable: intelligent and objective but not satirically distanced, like Fassbinder without the cruelty. It seems clear to me that he is showing us not a realistic depiction of Angel's life but a version colored by her imagination. The intention is not to mock her but to allow us to share her experience, and to make up our own minds about the value of her fantasies. The closest to an authorial statement comes from the character least sympathetic to Angel: Charlotte Rampling as the publisher's wife comments that in spite of Angel's lack of talent or self-knowledge, she has to admire her drive to succeed. Of course we're not compelled to agree, but it strikes me as a fair assessment.
The reactions to this movie remind me of the uncomprehending dismissal of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, another story of a shallow, self-involved woman that insists on looking through her eyes. This kind of scrupulous generosity is in line with a tradition going back to Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and both directors have the stylistic confidence to carry it off. It may just be that they don't have the critics they deserve.
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