Prepare to be Possessed by this week’s Jeremy Northam Night movie…

29 Jul

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.

Jennifer Ehle as Christabel LaMotte and Jeremy Northam as Randolph Henry Ash

It’s a movie that seems to polarise opinion.

From Jeremiah Kipp’s review at

…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…

Gwyneth Paltrow as Maude Bailey and Aaron Eckhart as Roland Mitchell

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.

'...a beautifully captivating film...'

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.

by henrysmummy2003

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.

11 Responses to “Prepare to be Possessed by this week’s Jeremy Northam Night movie…”

  1. Rosamond Tifft July 29, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    Good Lord, I didn’t like Jeremiah Kipp’s review much at all. He seemed to have missed the beauty of the Ehle Northam section, well not missed, dismissed. It grabbed me and my dear companian at the film right off and would not let go for a minute. Blunt is Kinder about the modern characters than I felt disposed to be, though I warmed up after awhile as they did, to some extent. They are not characters I would probably give that much play time to, but I would to their Victorian counterparts any old century. Thank you for this. Great.

    • henrysmummy2003 July 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm #

      Thank you Roe. It is definitely the Victorian characters who interest me the most, and that part of the movie is so beautifully lit and shot, though I find the modern part of the story has grown on me the more I watch the movie (and it is a movie I like to watch every so often). For me, Jeremy makes a perfect, and very appealing, Victorian poet, and Jennifer Ehle is his equal in terms of acting ability and charisma.

  2. sphinxvictorian July 30, 2010 at 4:31 am #

    I have to say I agree with the Kipp review regarding the modern characters. I loved Roland in the novel, and his diffident British guy-ness, so casting Eckhardt, for me, really ruined the character. I’m a big Paltrow fan, but I did feel this was not one of her best roles.

    The novel is one of my favorites ever, so it’s hard for me to be really objective about the mess they made of the modern plot, but I do think that the Victorian part was done really well. It’s almost as though LaBute didn’t direct that part, or was at least able to channel some part of his psyche that understood that set-up. I personally loathe LaBute’s other films, so again, I can’t believe he did so well with the Victorian part.

    All that said, gods, but Jeremy is amazing in this. The bedroom scene with Christabel, when he wakes up and is in tears over what he’s done, it just breaks my heart. As does the end scene with his daughter. Also the Pre-Raphaelite influences on the costumes and art of Blanche and Christabel make me so happy. They really got it right, although the corsets were a little too tight for artistic dress, but that’s my specialty so I tend to get fussy about that stuff. But the performances from both Jeremy and Jennifer make those portions of the film so watchable.

    The only thing that makes me happy about the modern part is the casting of the delectable Trevor Eve as Mortimer. He is so amazingly smarmy and wonderful.

    So, glad we’re watching this one, and I’ll actually probably watch it tonight or tomorrow afternoon, as I’ve got stuff going on tomorrow night.

    All the best and happy watching!

    • henrysmummy2003 July 30, 2010 at 8:26 am #

      Thanks Bess, I am very interested to hear your views on the costumes. To me, they look wonderful, but I’m not at all an expert. It’s good to know they were authentic.
      I agree with you about Jeremy’s scenes, they’re beautifully played and terribly affecting.
      My ‘modern part compensation’ is the divine Mr Toby Stephens! He and Trevor Eve make a fun comedy duo!

      • sphinxvictorian July 30, 2010 at 8:40 am #

        The Victorian costumes were beautifully done, and I particularly liked the gown that Christabel wore when Blanche was painting her in that first scene together. I also liked the gown that Christabel wears as an older woman, that has a slightly Aesthetic line to it. It’s really a tea gown or morning gown, the sort of thing an Aesthetically minded artistic woman would wear around the house. The colors were also particularly beautifully chosen.

        I do wish that they had made Christabel’s hair as blonde as Maud’s, as that was the connection between the two women in the book, but I suppose that was a little too easy a clue in a visual version of the story. Too easy to spot the connection, which would have spoiled the last scenes of revelation with Maud and Roland and the box of letters recovered from Ash’s grave.

        Anyway, I’m a little upset that I can’t put my hand on my copy of Possession, darn it! I must have lent it to someone. I’ll just have to dig out the novel and read it again instead! I can just imagine Jeremy as Ash.

        I look forward to finding out what the next two movies will be. I hope you’re going somewhere wonderful for your vacation!

  3. henrysmummy2003 July 30, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Oh no! I’m really sorry to hear your copy has gone walkabout! I hope it re-appears before too long. I wish there was something I could do…
    Jennifer Ehle is naturally blonde, I think, so it must have been a conscious decision to make her a redhead. It suits her very well.
    I’m off to Scotland and I’m really looking forward to it. It feels like an age since we were last on holiday!

    • sphinxvictorian July 30, 2010 at 9:15 am #

      It’ll resurface, I didn’t look extremely hard for it, and I have a huge amount of DVDs, I admit, so it’s hard to find individual ones sometimes, no matter how many times I reorganize them! (I’m a complete Virgo that way, always organizing my books, CDs and DVDs!)

      Oh, lovely Scotland! How nice! I hope you have a wonderful time. Just watch out for those midges! I’ve not been there for some years now, not since 2002. Spent a lovely Christmas in a little hotel in the Northwest, up above Fort William. We’ll be in the UK next year, but we won’t be up in Scotland this time, spending all our time in the South, this trip.

      • henrysmummy2003 July 30, 2010 at 9:28 am #

        I seem to be remarkable midge resistant, happily! I’m usually in the south of UK, but like to re-visit my roots!

  4. Mary July 30, 2010 at 9:26 am #

    Thanks Gill for the review. Not in the lead roles, is the film is through of the interaction Ehle / Northam well worth seeing. This looks, the touches, very big art and so attraktiv all.

    • henrysmummy2003 July 30, 2010 at 9:27 am #

      You’re welcome Mary xx I agree, it’s a beautiful movie.


  1. Happy 50th Birthday to Jeremy Northam! « The Jeremy Northam Blog - December 1, 2011

    […] 40. How good he is at love scenes. This must be a nightmare for many actors. There you are, stripped bare (sometimes literally) and you have to kiss someone you may or may not like in a passionate, intimate and convincing way whilst a film crew intrudes to film your every writhing. There’s absolutely no fooling the camera, it reveals all with merciless candor, and yet I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched films and TV dramas and groaned (or laughed!) as the actors fob us off by kissing each other’s chins and generate such lame chemistry that you feel they really must loathe each other, the artifice is revealed and the mood ruined. Not Jeremy. In keeping with his perfectionist attitude to the rest of his work, he is a fabulous film kisser. I could wax lyrical at greater length but perhaps a film clip will allow you to be the best judge! All I’ll add is my grateful thanks to him! (Contributed by Gill) Jeremy and Jennifer Ehle setting the screen on fire in Possession: […]

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