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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
I'm a great admirer of Francois Ozon's French movies (Swimming Pool, Under the Sand, 8 Women) but this, his first foray into English language drama, is a stinker. Adapted from a book by Elizabeth Taylor about an Edwardian novelist whose life fails to live up to her romantic fantasies it is as ridiculous, clichéd and overwritten as any of the heroine's creations; hard to know if this is the fault of the source material or Ozon's adaptation (though he has been assisted by acclaimed playwright and translator Martin Crimp). You watch it in disbelief, unsure if you're meant to laugh or not, faintly hoping that this is a deliberate attempt at post-modern ironic detachment (but wondering what would be the point) and gradually realising that Ozon thinks he is Douglas Sirk and has completely embarrassed himself.
The actors look all at sea, particularly Romola Garai who can't give any charm to the unlikeable heroine, and Ozon adopts a stiff and old-fashioned style of film-making - complete with syrupy music and terrible back projections - which make the film look as it it was made in 1936 rather than 2006; I'd like to think this was a deliberate if unfortunate miscalculation but the consequence is that the finished product looks stilted and amateurish. Only Charlotte Rampling - Ozon's muse - almost saves the day, but her air of sardonic detachment probably says more about her feelings towards the film than about her character.
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