Jane Campion’s Bright Star is of those films that I passed on at TIFF ’09. Good decision, though it’s not a bad movie. It’s just that it’s so earnest somehow. The film is based on the short life of poet John Keats and his love for Fanny Brawne. But two’s company and three’s a crowd, as Keats’ mentor, supporter, fellow poet Charles Brown does everything he can think of to discourage Keats’ passion for Fanny.
Abbie Cornish is very good as Fanny and Paul Schneider not bad as Brown. Ben Whishaw’s Keats is only middlin’. Campion outlines their nascent love in the impossibility of it. They come from two different worlds, and there is no way he can support a family, being a penniless poet. Fanny is a clothes designer with a creative flair, and seems to be very self-sufficient. She’s beautiful and much sought after, but despite the first impressions that she is flighty and shallow, she wants more than the usual. As Keats and Fanny grow fond of each other, she is seen more and more as a bright and thoughtful person, a person of some depth – Keats’ ‘bright star” in fact. Campion is restrained, thankfully, on the ‘muse’ aspect.
Campion does a good job of weaving Keats’ poetry into the story, for the most part seamlessly. Ultimately though, this is a period piece, and if you adore that sort of thing, then good for you. They are not my first choices for film viewing however.