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Movies: Bright Star

There is much to love about Jane Campion’s “Bright Star,” if only it weren’t so darn measured – poetic or not.

Not that the director of “The Piano” ever intends to make a full-blown action picture, especially one that ever so slowly builds on the passionate pairing of bold and brassy Fanny Brawne (Abby Cornish) with thin and frail John Keats (Ben Whishaw).

The two longing young souls are early 19th-century neighbors in the heaving English countryside. Fanny’s a fashion plate – at least for those days – who designs her own threads. John, of course, is the poet whose fame came years after his passing, but soon enough that we all had to read his romantic sonnets in junior high English classes.

Abbie Cornish shines in Jane Campion's new film "Bright Star."

Abbie Cornish shines in Jane Campion’s new film “Bright Star.”

The way Campion dreamily reveals it – and her smart screenplay tells it – Keats initially became miffed with Miss Brawne, daughter of a kindly widow (Kerry Fox), over a Valentine she gave him. That episode has the constantly melancholy Keats spewing such loveliness as, “There is a holiness to the heart’s affections.”

A few scenes later, however, the smitten couple is already framed stealing kisses between glances from Fanny’s sis Toots (cute little Edie Martin), or holding hands, or simply walking in magnificent meadows and among textured trees.

Edie Martin and Abbie Cornish.

Edie Martin and Abbie Cornish.

Obviously, their love looks very real, and the fabulous Fanny/Cornish becomes suitably devastated when Keats, whose family has a history of various complex maladies, comes down with tuberculosis.

Certainly the inevitable will occur, but not without interference from Keats’ friend and guardian (Paul Schneider), who enjoys insulting Fanny almost as much as his own dalliance with Abigail (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), his maid.

Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw are the star-crossed lovers in Jane Campion's "Bright Star."

Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw are the star-crossed lovers in Jane Campion’s “Bright Star.”

Even as a Scotsman, Schneider, currently seen on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” actually gives a more grounded performance opposite the very special Cornish than the slight Whishaw does. Of course, Schneider’s character can be a lyrical brute, while Keats is ever the tortured spirit

Above both, however, Cornish truly shines as the film’s very bright star.

Rated: PG-13
Stars: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Edie Martin, Kerry Fox
Director: Jane Campion

Studio/Official Site:

[John M. Urbancich is a Cleveland-based reporter who has reviewed movies and written film features and celebrity profiles at Cleveland’s Sun Newspapers for 25 years. As a longtime member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, his work has also been appearing on the Sun News website for more than a decade. ]

About Jenny Peters (164 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's,, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (, which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.

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