Madame Bovary: LFF Film Review

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As a huge fan of Mia Wasikowska, I simply had to go and see Madame Bovary at the London Film Festival. She is superb in it, like the rest of the cast, in this adaptation of Flaubert’s classic novel.

Wasikowska stars as Emma Bovary, a woman who has just married a small-town doctor and moved to a rural village in 19th Century France. She soon becomes disappointed in her life and embarks on affairs to advance her social status. She also buys expensive goods beyond her means and her lavish lifestyle soon brings the Bovarys into debt which they cannot repay.

I have not read the book or seen other adaptations so I am at a disadvantage here. From what I learned at the Q&A afterward, the fact of Emma having a child has been left out and also more details about her husband Charles. While this obviously didn’t bother me (I didn’t know they were missing of course!), I did wish things have been explained more. Why did Emma have affairs? Why did these men want to get involved with a married woman?

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I recently saw Effie Gray, which has a similar premise but she sought an affair with a close companion because her husband was cold and frigid, whereas in Emma’s case, Charles was a perfect gentleman – he just wasn’t as exciting as she had clearly hoped. I felt incredibly sorry for Charles because he had done nothing to deserve this. I seriously disliked Emma because I didn’t understand why she was behaving that way, especially spending money she did not have. I just wish more detail had been given to her character in terms of motivation. In general, the film could have done with more dialogue.

Another issue I had was the accents. This is set in France but nobody is speaking French or with a French accent. That would have been fine if everybody spoke English but there is a mixture of British and American here and it felt clunky. It was distracting that Mia spoke American, when she is Australian and perfectly capable of an English accent – especially as Charles spoke perfect British.

I really liked the male adulterous characters – played by Logan Marshall-Green and Ezra Miller – because they were tempted by her but then saw the error of their ways. I found Miller especially convincing. Rhys Ifans overplayed his clothes merchant character and Charles (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) could have had more to do.

In all, I’m glad I saw it because I now know the story and it looks stunning. Wasikowska’s acting was superb but I wish we cared or understood Emma more because then you would have more feelings about her demise, but you don’t, you are glad she is getting her comeuppance. It is a very slow moving film that could have done with more dialogue to flesh it out.

 

This film has not been given a general release as yet. 

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