No, this is not a feminist take on the classic H. G. Wells novel. Instead, it is a period drama about the life of Charles Dickens‘ secret mistress.
Starring Ralph Fiennes – who also directs – as the famous author, The Invisible Woman speaks of Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), a young actress who is infatuated by Mr. Dickens. Taking a small part in one of his plays, Nelly eventually realizes that it’s not her onstage presence that is her best attribute, but her affect on Dickens off stage.
Flashing back and forth between a present day where complicated past is behind her, and the memories that still haunt her, The Invisible Woman confuses. This is partially due to the fact that thirty year old Jones looks neither 18, nor whatever age she is supposed to be in the present day – there is at least one scene where I am not sure in which time period it was supposed to be taking place.
The plot is slow but deliberate, plodding along. The chronology is perhaps the hardest to follow with very little indication of time between the various events of Nelly’s past. Fiennes is convincing as the early rock star writer, and Joanna Scanlan works as Dickens’ mostly uninteresting wife, though she seems more than a bit caricatured and one dimensional.
Production values are reasonably high, though it still does feel like the BBC production that it is, if you know what I mean – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t going to help draw in mass audiences. There really isn’t much here, in fact, to draw in any audience other than those with an affinity for period pieces or Charles Dickens’ personal life. Instead of a scintillating behind the curtains look at the author, this film feels more like a story knocked off his, or another classic writer’s, work. There is scandal, yes, but it is implied rather than shown, with very little enthusiasm.
There is a very specific audience that will enjoy this film, but I can’t even imagine those who relish such films as Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina will add this to their list of favorites as it ends in rather forgettable fashion.
I couldn’t find myself caring much for any of the characters here, despite the fact that they were real people, and that’s a problem. The plot is slow and confusing, and that’s another problem. I can’t say this is a must see, but it did get an Oscar nomination for best costume design, so it has that going for it at least. See it if you’re obsessed with Charles Dickens or want to see Voldemort with a beard.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film.
My rating: Two out of five hats
The Invisible Woman will not be seen in 26 theaters, January 17