×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Angel

A monumental piece of miscasting in the title role, and an apparently tin ear for the nuances of English dialogue by Gallic helmer Francois Ozon, clip the wings of "Angel" pretty much from the get-go.

With:
With: Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, Jacqueline Tong, Janine Duvitzki, Christopher Benjamin, Una Stubbs, Jemma Powell, Simon Woods, Seymour Matthews. (English dialogue)

A monumental piece of miscasting in the title role, and an apparently tin ear for the nuances of English dialogue by Gallic helmer Francois Ozon, clip the wings of “Angel” pretty much from the get-go. Good-looking adaptation of late British scribe Elizabeth Taylor’s story of a young femme novelist’s rise and fall in Edwardian England looks set to thud to earth in Anglo markets, though it may fly higher as a dubbed or subtitled item in non-English-speaking territories. Arthouse aficionados of Ozon’s earlier pics won’t be amused.

Taylor’s 1957 novel, inspired by late 19th- and early 20th-century Brit writer Marie Corelli, was atypical of her oeuvre, and in fact satirized the overheated melodramas of the period. Pic makes it clear early on that the title character, Angel Deverell, has only a micron of talent. But stripped of any irony, let alone wit, the movie ends up as empty and flowery as the literature (and person) it should be satirizing.

Worse, the dialogue sounds like an English translation of a French edition and the performances, by a largely talented cast, seem curiously out of synch throughout. (Same problem affected Ozon’s mixed-dialogue “Swimming Pool,” though to a lesser degree.) Delivery is closer to the simplistic, declamatory style of a kidpic or a British pantomime, topped by a lead perf from up-and-comer Romola Garai that would be more at home on the London legit stage of the period. At no point does Garai make the fame-struck, self-absorbed Angel likable or even sympathetic.

What’s left is a colorfully costumed, two-and-a-quarter-hour haul through the life of a talentless bore, without either the spoofy humor of Ozon’s previous genre parody, “8 Women,” or the emotional grace notes of his finest movie, “Under the Sand.”

Pic opens in slow-clad 1905, with Angel, daughter of a provincial grocer (Jacqueline Tong), already a self-centered teen who pours out her romantic flights of fantasy on paper. When she finally gets a positive reply to her potboiler “Lady Urania” from a London publisher, Theo (Sam Neill), she hightails it up to the big city, convinced that success and recognition are her birthrights.

Theo recognizes a raw (and marketable) facility and, though Angel refuses to change a comma of her overheated prose — strewn with gaffes like “opened a champagne bottle with a corkscrew” –he signs her up. “Urania” and Angel’s subsequent outpourings are eaten up by pre-WWI Edwardian society.

Now wealthy, Angel buys a country manse, Paradise, she’d always dreamed of living in, and takes on as a personal secretary the adoring Nora (Lucy Russell), sister of handsome but tortured painter Esme (Michael Fassbender), whom she has her eye on. But the arrival of the war and the failure of her relationship with Esme sour Angel’s success.

Seemingly deprived of any strong direction, thesps largely perform as if they’re in different movies. Most successful is Neill, as Angel’s tolerant but bottom-line publisher, who brings a measure of subtlety to his role but still acts in a vacuum. Fassbender (“300”) looks the part but delivers his conflicted-artist dialogue sans conviction, and there’s no genuine sexual electricity between him and Garai (a recurrent problem in Ozon’s portrayals of male-female relationships).

Others phone in their perfs, from Charlotte Rampling as Theo’s soignee wife to Russell as the devoted, closeted Nora, whose attraction to Angel is made explicit in one scene.

Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne and production designer Katia Wyszkop have a field day with duds and artifacts, creating a heightened, chocolate-box version of Edwardian England –shot in Britain and Belgium — with d.p. Denis Lenoir an able accomplice. Composer Philippe Rombi wraps the whole shebang in a full-tilt symphonic score that similarly aims to capture the flavor of a’50s-style Hollywood studio production but ends up feeling strangely empty.

Angel

France-U.K.-Belgium

Production: A Wild Bunch Distribution (in France)/Cinemien (in Belgium) release of a Fidelite presentation of a Fidelite (France)/Poisson Rouge Pictures (U.K.)/Scope Pictures (Belgium) production, in association with FOZ, Virtual Films, Wild Bunch, France 2 Cinema, Celluloid Dreams, with participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier. Executive producer, Tanya Seghatchian. Co-producers, Christopher Granier-Deferre, Genevieve Lemal, Alexandre Lippens. Directed by Francois Ozon. Screenplay, Ozon, Martin Crimp, from the book by Elizabeth Taylor.

Crew: Camera (color), Denis Lenoir; editor, Muriel Breton; music, Philippe Rombi; production designer, Katia Wyszkop; art director, Nick Palmer; costume designer, Pascaline Chavanne; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Mertens, Benoit Hillebrant, Dean Humphries; make-up, Gill Robillard; hair, Marese Langan; Esme's paintings, Gilbert Pignol; assistant director, Dominique Delany; casting, Karen Lindsay Stewart. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (closer -- competing), Feb. 17, 2007. Running time: 134 MIN.

With: With: Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, Jacqueline Tong, Janine Duvitzki, Christopher Benjamin, Una Stubbs, Jemma Powell, Simon Woods, Seymour Matthews. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content