Bright Star, written and directed by Jane Campion (The Piano) is wondrously languid, romantic and exquisitely filmed. It tells the story of the tender and tragic love affair between poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and his muse and love Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) as told through her eyes. She lives with her mother and two younger siblings. Quite popular among men, Fanny is known as a flirt and she has yet to settle into an arranged marriage like many of her peers. Love seems much more important to Fanny than money, even though her family is not a rich one. Fanny meets Keats when he and his boorish benefactor, Charles Brown (Paul Schneider), rent rooms at Fanny’s family home. At first, she’s unsure about Keats and even the value of poetry. She reads his first book of poems and finds that the young man has some promise. The more time the two spend together, the more fond they grow of each other. Unfortunately, Keats has no fortune and makes no money from his poetry. Fanny’s friends tell her that she should not spend so much time with Keats but the two complement each other and she’s already fallen for his charming demeanor and virtuous nature. Their pure and honest love gently grows and the bond between the two becomes powerful and enviable. In Bright Star, as Fanny, Cornish portrays nearly every emotion and it is a revelatory, refreshing and devastatingly stunning performance. Fanny is an independent woman, for that era, who needs no man to be happy yet finds the love of her life right in her own home, right under her own roof. Fanny sews her own clothes and is quite the fashionista among her circle of friends. She knows that she could even sell her clothes if she needed to make money. Fanny alternates between being achingly supportive and gently provocative. She remains extremely devoted to her family (her younger brother and sister often accompany Keats and Fanny on outings) despite the ongoing relationship. In his portrayal of Keats, Whishaw (Brideshead Revisited) turns in an introspective, yet commanding performance. His Keats is eyes and voice and empathy. Cornish and Whishaw have simmering chemistry. Campion has created an idyllic, artistic film which appears as beautiful as a watercolor painting. Each scene is so carefully executed and painstakingly acted that the audience shares in Fanny’s genuine journey with Keats. Bright Star is a serene, perfectly crafted film about the power of love.
Hysterical, witty, brash British comedy the imagines the days behind closed doors at Downing Street and in other offices of the British and U.S. government leading up to the Iraq War. Basically the U.S. President and the British Prime Minister are gung ho [as history shows] to go to war but not everyone working for them is in agreement or in such a hurry to send the troops into harm’s way. In the Loop is about politicians who appear to be self-composed and put together and full of the perfect sound bites and then they collapse under pressure or are completely different away from the public and media. In the Loop is fast-paced and provides an insight into British politics as well as a bit of a viewpoint into what the Brits think of Americans [we are Rock Stars! in their eyes apparently]. Directed by Armando Iannucci and written by Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell. An impressive cast includes: Peter Capaldi [Skins, Torchwood], Tom Hollander [The Soloist, Valkyrie], James Gandolfini [The Sopranos, The Mexican], Gina McKee [Atonement], Steve Coogan [Hamlet 2, Tropic Thunder], Anna Chulmsky [all grown up star of My Girl, Blood Car].