Friday, April 17, 2015

Movie Review #243: "Effie Gray" (2014)

Movie"Effie Gray"
Director: Richard Laxton
Rating: PG-13
Running Time 1 hour, 48 minutes
Image Source
A young Scottish woman named Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) marries a wealthy British art critic named John Ruskin (Greg Wise). She quickly falls into despair as John is distant, treats her poorly and refuses to be intimate with her in any way. 


As we've mentioned many a time on our blog, we try to go into all movies with an open, unclouded mind. We had maybe seen the trailer for this film once many months ago, and from then, put it out of our minds since it didn't strike us as the kind of thing people would be flocking to cinemas to see. Since this was the last week it would be at our theater, we figured, why not?

All this being said, we're just going to come out and say it: it's hard for us to watch period pieces. Please don't roll your eyes at us! We don't know why, but they always strike us as dull and boring. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but "Effie Gray" is not one of them. Period piece films are almost always aptly and expertly cast, but that doesn't mean what the actors have to work with is either good or necessarily worthy of our time. Case in point, again, this movie.

Whenever one of these dramatic period pieces comes out, there's always a little bit of apprehension that it will contain little more than meaningless stuffy interactions. "Effie Gray" is just that, a series of painfully dull interactions that makes us question the state of our existence as humans since women were treated so poorly. As a women's studies major and as feminists, we both should have been excited about a movie with a such a powerful outcome for its time, but alas, we were not, and this film has very little redeeming value apart from one or two scenes where you want to root for Effie for the things she has done but can't because you're so bored out of your gourd. Within the first few minutes, we were hoping it would all be over soon, but it just drags on and on with nothingness on top of nothingness. The film itself isn't overly long at 1 hour and 48 minutes, it just feels like it is, and you'd swear you were sitting in the theater for over 3 hours at the pace this film moves. By the first quarter of the film, we come to understand that Effie's husband John is a distant, cold, oppressive asshole who doesn't want to have sex with her. At some point, it even seems to imply he might be a pedophile, since he and Effie were at least familiar with one another when she was 12 years old, and obvious it wasn't in the biblical sense since her virginity was still intact by the time she turned 25. Her supposed budding romance with John Everett Millais, played by Tom Sturridge, is portrayed as more of a pity party than a romance because Millais feels sorry for the way Effie is treated by her husband, not to mention the way he is treated by him as well. Effie and Millais' romance seems to develop out of a mutual disdain for John Ruskin since, bottom line, John was obviously a huge dickhead. 

If you were expecting this film to be saved by the top billed Emma Thompson putting on a great performance, you can forget that right now. Sure, she is good here and breathes what little light she can to this otherwise taxing affair, but there is just one glaring problem. She is only on screen for maybe 5 minutes tops! She is top billed, she is on the poster for the movie and IN FRONT OF Dakota Fanning, and yet she has less screen time than Effie's useless sister. Thompson herself, though barely visible for 1/50th of this film, carries plenty of the blame for this movie being a drudgery considering she penned the screenplay. Hell, she even went to court to battle for the rights to Effie Gray's story! With so much dedication and time put into this movie, you'd think she would have poured over it with a fine tooth comb looking for ways to make it rise to the occasion of such a scandalous event in the 1800's. She really needs to work on her writing, and stat. Apart from this drudgery, like most period pieces, the scenery is gorgeous. Since it was filmed in Europe and revolves around art, you can bet your bottom dollar you're going to see a lot of glorious mansions, some tremendous panning camera shots of the Scottish countryside, and some really pretty paintings, sculptures, and other such inspirations for works of art. Unfortunately, I didn't think that some of the costumes were all that exciting, just your typical big, Victorian-era dresses, up-do'ed hairstyles, hooping skirts and lavish jewelry. A couple of shots of nice, babbling waterfalls and sparkling jewels do not make a good film. The best part of the movie was when it finally ended so we, much like Effie herself, could end our terrible experience of boredom and lack of passion and move on to other more pressing matters.

My Rating: 3.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 41%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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