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I did it! I went to see Bright Star, the movie I blogged about a month ago, the movie about John Keats’s love affair with his neighbor, Fanny Brawne . It finally came to two local theaters so Sunday night I finally got to see it.

I liked it very much for many reasons.

It was wonderfully acted. Abbie Cornish as Fanny definitely should be nominated for an Oscar. She had the most expressive face; you could almost tell what she was thinking. Ben Whishaw as Keats was also very good, although I can’t figure out why he was always unshaven. Was that supposed to show he was poor? Anyway, he managed to be masculinely appealing while still sensitive and poetic and sick. Paul Schneider played Brown, Keats’s friend and roommate. He also is said to be Oscar worthy. I was surprised to discover he is an American actor, from South Carolina, no less. He spoke with a very authentic-sounding Scottish accent. In addition to these main characters, even the minor roles were very well done.

The costumes were spectacular, especially Fanny’s dresses. Fanny Brawne designed and sewed her own dresses, so her costumes were beautiful creations. All the costumes were well done, though. I loved the hats and lace caps! I think the costumes in this movie were the most beautiful depiction of Regency era fashion that I have ever seen. Even the shoes were fascinating.

In addition to the costumes, the settings were wonderful. The four seasons were beautifully represented. The snow really looked like snow; the rain, like rain. Details were attended to. Stacks of books in Keats and Brown’s rooms, tea cups and dishes at dinner, the kitchen pots.

I had not expected the movie to be as emotional as it was. It had me trying to hold in sobs!

I thought there were some weaknesses in the movie. It was sometimes difficult to tell what was going on, who some of the people were, and why the scenes skipped from one to the other. If I had not read up on this part of Keats’s life, I would not have understood as much as I did.

The pace was slow. (One of my friends said she started thinking, “Die already, Keats!”) But because the film was so beautiful to look at, I didn’t mind so much.

If I wanted someone who knew nothing about the Regency period to fall in love with it, I’d probably recommend the BBC/Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice. But if someone is already in love with the time period, I’d definitely recommend Bright Star.

Have you seen Bright Star? What did you think of it?
Of movies set in the Regency era, which do you think best would make someone new fall in love with it?

I’m hoping my December book, Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, evokes a rich Regency setting, a great love story, and lots of emotion. The excerpt is now up on my website. And a new contest.

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Imagine my excitement to hear about the release of a new Jane Campion (The Piano) movie about John Keats‘s doomed love. Bright Star was scheduled for release Friday Sept 18. A new movie set in the Regency era, by an intelligent filmaker. Hooray!
Then I was immediately cast down because Bright Star’s “limited release” did not include the Washington, DC area. Pooh.

But this looks like a wonderful film. It tells the story of Keats’s love affair with his neighbor in Hampstead, Fanny Brawne, doomed from the start by her need to marry well, his poverty and, of course, the illness that would tragically take his life at 25. The actors playing Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny look gorgeous and the performance by the actress playing Fanny (Abbie Cornish) is said to be Emmy-worthy.

Here’s the Movie Trailer:

I confess that I knew little of Keats, except that he wrote wonderful poetry and he died young. I remember coming across a plaque near the Spanish Steps in Rome marking the residence where he died. This was years ago when I’d visited Rome and had not even started writing Regency or become obsessed by the era and all its characters.

Keats suffered scathing reviews in the London press, but probably because he was associated with Leigh Hunt, who in 1813 was imprisoned for criticizing the Prince Regent. It is such a shame Keats’s work was not more appreciated in his lifetime. It is so beautiful.

Here is the poem inspired by Fanny Brawne that gave the movie its title:

Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death

Keats contracted tuberculosis, known then as consumption, the illness that took the lives of his mother and brother. From his medical studies he knew from the sight of the first drop of blood what he would face. He died in Rome, his friend Severn at his side.

It seems fitting to end my blog with the beginning of Keats’s Ode to Autumn:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

Are you in a city showing Bright Star? Have you seen it? Tell us, please!
What is your favorite poem by Keats?
Do you think you could write a Regency-set Romance with a poet as a hero?

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