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Possession (2002)

Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, more...
Director: Neil LaBute, Neil LaBute
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Universal Studios
Genre: Drama, Romance, Costume Drama/Period Piece
Running Time: 103 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: Spanish
    see additional details...

In Neil LaBute's film adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Booker Prize-winning 1990 novel, Aaron Eckhart (who has starred in all of LaBute's films) plays Roland Michell, an American academic researcher, working in London, who discovers some important letters written by a famous Victorian poet, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam [Gosford Park]). Ash was presumed to have been totally devoted to his wife, but Roland finds letters written to another unnamed woman, and soon determines that the intended recipient was another, less well-known poet, Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle of Sunshine). Roland contacts Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), an expert on LaMotte's life and work, who tells him that LaMotte couldn't have had an affair with Ash because she lived most of her life with a female companion, Blanche Glover (Lena Headey), in what was apparently a romantic relationship. Despite Maud's skepticism, the two begin to investigate, and uncover a wealth of information about the affair between the two poets. Period scenes of the illicit relationship between Ash and LaMotte are intercut with the contemporary investigation of the two academics. Roland and Maud initially fight their attraction to each other, but as the pair find more evidence of the historical and tragic romance, they find themselves overcoming their own resistance to romantic entanglement. Possession was kicked around as a film project for a long time before LaBute became interested. Director Sydney Pollack originally was slated to film a screenplay by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), who receives a credit on the finished film. When LaBute took over the project years later, he reworked the screenplay with Laura Jones (The Portrait of a Lady). ~ Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

So-so by Texan99 September 4, 2010 - 4:12 PM PDT
I rented this because I so enjoyed the movie "Angels and Insects," adapted from another A.S. Byatt movie. I haven't read the novels. A and I's characters surprised me with every move but totally convinced me at the same time. The two mirror couples in Possession, not so much. Everything they did was either predictable or unconvincing, or sometime (strangely) both at once. (Paltrow's device of signaling her emotional thaw by letting her ice-queen hair get gradually out of control, for instance.) It's as if these very capable actors were taking orders from the director: approach, avoid, approach, avoid. I generally love plots that are propelled by that conflict, but not when the characters shift randomly into forward and reverse as if on schedule. It's apparent that the director wanted to contrast the Victorian passion with the modern inhibition, and this is confirmed by his somewhat pedestrian, extended comments in the special features, but he just didn't have any interesting ideas about the theme, and if the novel had them, he didn't pick them up. The director's comments are interesting, though, for their obsessive detail about how the sets worked. You just have to sit through about 200 repetitions of the idea that every member of the cast and every aspect of the experience was "great," "amazing," "lovely," and "fun."

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.29)
38 Votes
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