Mr. Turner explores the last quarter century of the great if eccentric British painter J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851). Profoundly affected by the death of his father, loved by a housekeeper he takes for granted and occasionally exploits sexually, he forms a close relationship with a seaside landlady with whom he eventually lives incognito in Chelsea, where he dies. Throughout this, he travels, paints, stays with the country aristocracy, visits brothels, is a popular if anarchic member of the Royal Academy of Arts, has himself strapped to the mast of a ship so that he can paint a snowstorm, and is both celebrated and reviled by the public and by royalty. Written by
A seemingly endless series of largely unconnected scenes
I don't know how anyone sat through all two and a half hours of this at one go in the theater. It took me four sessions to get through it all.
It is a series of largely unconnected scenes, most very short. There is no arc. Turner finally dies, but you don't feel that you know much about him. Nor do you care.
I don't expect a feature film to be a documentary. Hamlet, after all, evidently tells us very little about the real Prince of Denmark of that name. But I do expect a feature film to develop its characters, make us come to understand them, and perhaps even care about them, or care about something. This movie did not do that for me at all. And that was very disappointing, as I really love Turner's paintings.
There are some beautiful, if very short, scenes of gorgeous English countryside, but nothing comes of them. There are lots of scenes that make no sense by themselves. The young Ruskin, for example, comes off as a pretentious fop, but if you don't know it from other sources you would never know from this movie that that young fop would become one of the most influential writers on art for the next century, both in England and in France. We see Constable, and Turner's addition to one of his canvases, but the movie gives us no idea who Constable is, whether he was any different from the many other painters we see in that scene, etc. Just a lot of names. If a movie is going to introduce historical figures, then it should in fact introduce them. It's not sufficient to just run them by us.
In short, I was very disappointed by this movie. A good editor might make something of it by cutting it down an hour and filming some transitions, but I don't know that it would be worth the effort.
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