Based on the real-life scandal that shocked Victorian-era England, this movie tells the story of Euphemia "Effie" Gray. At nineteen, she married the prominent art historian and critic John Ruskin, but Ruskin refused to consummate their marriage. Lonely and frustrated, Effie is drawn to pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, and finds a friend and champion in Lady Elizabeth Eastlake. After five years trapped in a loveless marriage, Effie will defy the rules of Victorian society.Written by
The real Effie Gray was from Perth, Scotland. However, this movie opted for an all English accent cast. See more »
The movie poster shows Fanning as Effie superimposed over Millais's painting "Ophelia," implying that Effie was the model. She wasn't; Elizabeth (Lizzie) Siddal was the model for Ophelia. (Lizzie was Gabriel Rossetti's wife and their story is as scandalous as the Ruskins'.) See more »
Once, a beautiful young girl lived in a very cold house in Scotland. The house was cold because someone's grandfather killed himself there. One day, the grandson came to visit the house. He thought the beautiful girl was an angel came down to Earth. The grandson worked very hard. He read and thought and drew and wrote. He wrote a fairy story just for her. She was twelve years old. His mother and father were kind, but his were wicked. When she grew up, he married her.
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"When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package." John Ruskin
Two reasons compelled me to see Effie Gray, the 19th century period piece about the failed marriage of famed art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride, Effie Gray: Emma Thompson wrote it and co-stars; John Ruskin is a hero of mine. Neither reason is satisfied, nor in fact are dynamic people barely present in this boring biopic.
The crux of the conflict is that Ruskin never consummated the marriage; John Everett Millais, the pre-Raphaelite painter plays too little a part in this adaptation; and Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning, looking innocently pre-Raphaelite) is so underwritten as to make me question what such a wit as Thompson was thinking. Or maybe she was too busy miscasting Ruskin played by her husband, Greg Wise.
In real life, Ruskin was 29 years old when he married Effie, and Wise is 49, adding another layer of intergenerational distance not even historically accurate. As depicted here, Ruskin is a mama's boy coddled by both parents, actually shielded from social interaction so he can write unimpeded. While mom takes John immediately to a bath when he arrives with his new bride, the bride is left to pass pleasantries with dad as she is clueless yet about how mom will co-opt her every step of the short marriage.
What's boring about these farcical Freudian touches is that they're not even funny or fleshed out, and Thompson gives Ruskin little chance to show the verbal gifts that shot him to the forefront of Victorian art and architecture critics.
Ruskin best expressed what he didn't do for Effie:
"You cannot hammer a girl into anything. She grows as a flower does, she will wither without sun; she will decay in her sheath as a narcissus will if you do not give her air enough; she might fall and defile her head in dust if you leave her without help at some moments in her life; but you cannot fetter her; she must take her own fair form and way if she take any." Sesames and Lilies
By not giving Effie what he says should be done for a girl, Ruskin becomes his own most devastating critic.
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