Madame Bovary dies. This is not giving anything away, the opening scene is a flash forward to the final scene in which she poisons herself. Increasingly this device is used to open films and nine times out of ten, its downright lazy film-making. Kill off a character before we, the audience, care about them and then just incase you can’t remember- the directors do it again. Within the opening scene I already knew the ending, and you will too.
At its heart the story is about a young bride with big dreams who marries a rather unambitious modest country doctor, Bovary quickly becomes bored with 19th Century domestic gender roles and eagerly seeks attention from anyone who will give it to her. This adulterous woman, played unsympathetically by Mia Wasikowska has delusions of a better life: she makes purchases she can’t afford, seeks to social climb in the arms of richer men, wants to travel to nearby cities with bigger cultural scenes…. Bovary has a point, I’d be bored too with few residents her age or social class, no art scene, no TV, no Internet, few outlets for women… Though Wasikowska’s Bovary is so selfish the film becomes one long hissy fit.
This costume drama, I call it a costume drama for being a period piece with extraordinary costumes, costumes that steal whole scenes for lack of better content, does come at a good time. The timing of the film is apt, just as the film Marie Antoinette mirrored the spend with abandon frivolities of the 2006 pre-economic crisis, Madame Bovary shows the darker side of real consequences of such behaviour and the concept that the audience is too familiar with- debt. Though the film lack the tongue in cheek or colour that Sofia Coppola brought to her film, Madame Bovary is a serious film about serious things determine not to deviate from its place in time. The problem is, while the book this film is based on was highly controversial when released, today things like debt and adultery are mainstream topics. One wonders if this film might have packed a harder punch if it had been set in modern times.
Another flaw of the film was the apparent disregard of accents. Many films cast actors of different backgrounds, its call blind casting. However, one cannot successfully have a film of this type and ignore the four or so different accents in the film. It’s distracting and inaccurate.
Actors have a fear of over exposure they also have a fear of being too good. When an actor so completely becomes a role, it can be difficult for audiences to see them as anyone else. Tragically, the talented Ezra Miller is ruined for me. His Kevin in We Need to Talk about Kevin, a film about as funny as this one, was so harrowingly evil, I can’t even look at him on screen.
The film may be timed well but it made some big mistakes that could have been easily avoided.