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Marina de Van
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
For me, this film is truly awful. It tells the story of an English woman who writes simplistic, kitschy, romantic novels - think Barbara Cartland, but set in the 1900s. Its prolific, eponymous heroine, the daughter of a provincial grocer, has her first book published while still at school; and goes on to achieve fame and fortune, before meeting her inevitable nemesis.
Had the film contained irony, humour, imaginative visuals, original character insights or surprising plot twists, it could have been watchable, perhaps even admirable. But Francois Ozon, the writer/director, has used little or none of these; and instead has employed the sort of fairy-story, linear plot line, cardboard characters, melodramatic action and over-decorated interiors as one imagines appear in Angel's books. (Fortunately, we are given little by way of examples of her writing.) Incidentally, though on a technical level the film is mostly competent, there is a laughably bad piece of back-projection - or whatever equivalent is used these days - near the beginning, when Angel is in a carriage riding through London.
Even with these defects, the film might still have worked if Ozon had made his main character in the slightest degree likable or intriguing; had she been, say, a naive dreamer, who relates guilelessly to those around her and to her adulatory readership. We could then have understood and forgiven her ignorance of the absurdity of her writing. But it is hard for us to sympathise with Angel when she starts off as a hateful, materialistic, selfish brat; remains so throughout her period of success and lionisation; and hardly changes even when fate turns against her.
It would be easy to blame some of the film's flaws on over-acting by its principal, Romola Garai, but I suspect she plays her part exactly as Ozon wanted. The male lead is Michael Fassbender as Esmé, a stereotypical, garret-dwelling, Bohemian artist, who is the one object of Angel's adoration (besides herself). Also on stage are Lucy Russell as Nora, Esmé's sister, who genuinely admires and loves Angel; Sam Neill as Angel's publisher, who incredibly agrees to print her first schoolgirl effort despite her refusal to alter even one word of it; and Charlotte Rampling as his wife who is understandably baffled by his abandonment of his critical faculty.
Unless you're really stuck for something to do, I recommend giving Angel a miss. Instead, for those who haven't seen it, the recent Miss Potter is a far more credible and engaging portrait of a turn of the century female writer.
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