This week, it’s a run away victory for Neil LaBute’s Possession (2002) as our movie for tomorrow night.
Based on AS Byatt’s prize-winning novel of the same name, it’s a literary tale. Modern academic Roland Mitchell (Aaron Eckhart) stumbles upon some letters which suggest that upstanding example of marital fidelity, the fictional Victorian Poet Laureate Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam), may actually have written his most lauded love poems not to his wife but to his secret mistress, Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle), who was also a poet and had previously been supposed to be lesbian. Roland seeks out LaMotte expert (and Christabel’s distant relative) Maude Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow). The story follows Maude and Roland’s journey of discovery as they uncover what really happened, and also as they deal with their developing feelings for one another. We travel backwards and forwards between the two time periods as the story unfolds.
It’s a movie that seems to polarise opinion.
From Jeremiah Kipp’s review at Filmcritic.com
…LaBute attempts to create a parallel between the heightened romanticism of days gone by with the postmodern, chilly hustle and bustle of modern life. He’s got a penchant for aloof yuppie scum, as evidenced in Your Friends and Neighbors and In the Company of Men, and Possession plays best as another example of, ‘People are real b*****ds nowadays, aren’t they?’ Eckhart’s character doesn’t want to get tied down in (cough, cough) relationships, living happily as a bachelor and lone ranger. Paltrow, on the other hand, expresses her character through a tightly wound hair-bun and shrill, me-so-bitchy line readings. It’s hardly worth noting the Northam-Ehle period scenes, since they’re mostly done in the form of pretty montages. They might as well exist inside a snow globe Eckhart and Paltrow are marveling over…
From Emily Blunt’s review at The Blunt Review
…Possession manages to remain firmly realistic even while dipping into extreme romantic settings riddled with feather pens, gothic backdrops, evanescent waterfalls and ruffled petticoats. Why does it work so well? Simple. LaBute knows people. He can create a whole being on paper; not always the nicest of folks as we LaBute fans know; but yet so complete with minute idiosyncrasies and great dialogs rich with truth. I can’t recall ever being disappointed by his work and here is no exception. Just a beautiful captivating film….Possession is fabulous. It is a rare truly romantic film that doubles, oddly enough, as a twisting mystery. The cast, direction, set design, cinematography, seamless editing, script, and soundtrack will treat you to a very special trip to the theater. Find this and enjoy!
Well, I’m with Emily, I have a very soft spot for this movie. But I’m not going to wax lyrical about it because JennyTheNipper has already done a sterling job in reviewing Possession for The Jer Blog. You can read Jenny’s excellent review here: Possession Obsession: In Praise of the Three Hankie Number.
Here’s what Jeremy had to say about his role in the movie, from his 2002 interview with the North County Times:
“It takes an enormous stretch of the imagination, in terms of conjuring the character in the mind’s eye,” said Northam. “He is an eminent Victorian poet who never lived, so he became to me a strange amalgam of different poets. I imagined someone living a fairly normal life, whose life would then change drastically, who would also in his lifetime be lionized into a near-mythical figure, and that lionization would carry over a century later.”
Northam says he sensed a new approach to ancient themes when he read the script for Possession, based on the Booker-Prize-winning novel.
“Interesting to me about the story are its values toward love and passion, and how these things must be translated into something constructive,” Northam said.
If you’d like to read the rest of this interview with Jeremy and more press reviews, you can find them at Jeremy Northam Info.
After this week’s Jeremy Northam Night, I will be on holiday/vacation for two weeks and therefore won’t be able to arrange a poll for our next two JN Nights. So, I suggest that, for the next two weeks, we watch the two movies that came in second place in weeks one and two. I’ll be announcing what they are on Saturday. I hope you approve.
Update: I will be on holiday/vacation for a short while so there will be no blog posts/Jeremy Northam Nights for a couple of weeks. Of course, you can always have your own whenever you like!
The two movies that came second in weeks one and two (and which I’ll be taking with me for my Jeremy Northam Nights while I’m away) were Cypher and Happy, Texas.