Movies

Movie date: Madame Bovary (M18)

STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Ezra Miller, Logan Marshall-Green, Rhys Ifans

DIRECTOR: Sophie Barthes

THE SKINNY: This adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic 1857 novel centres on Emma (Wasikowska), who marries small-town doctor Charles Bovary (Lloyd-Hughes) to escape living on her family pig farm. But she soon becomes bored with her mundane lifestyle and engages in extramarital affairs in an attempt to climb up the social ladder.


MARS

Emma Bovary isn't easy to like.

One of literature's great characters, she's infuriatingly human, which is to say contradictory and complex.

She's duplicitous and avaricious, but also brimming with passion and imagination.

There's nothing twee about Emma; she's a bit of a terror.

This all works in a book, where we can be deeply immersed in her thoughts and feelings and build up some level of empathy.

Unfortunately, it doesn't translate to film very well.

In this particular adaptation, Emma just comes across as a classic gold-digger, willing to toss aside her kind husband for the chance to bonk a dashing lawyer or a douchey royal.

It doesn't help that they cast Wasikowska, who's a cold presence on screen - stiff and inexpressive.

There's something grudging in her performance, as if she'd really rather not be acting.

Perhaps they could have gone with someone more charismatic?

Not that Madame Bovary is terrible. For one thing, the period setting is nicely done and serious sorts might dig it.

There are also some really strong individual sequences, like the thrilling deer hunt.

It's not only exciting on a visceral level, it also gives us some insight into the fundamental darkness and wildness of Emma.

She gets off on it just a little too much.

- JASON JOHNSON

Rating: 3/5


VENUS

I don't profess to be a literature buff, nor am I familiar with Flaubert's book.

I would imagine the role of a woman who dares to defy the social norms of 19th-century France and notorious for her vivid desires which lead to her epic downfall, would call for someone brimming with passion.

Yet, this Madame comes across as flat.

Wasikowska fits the bill of a young, beautiful and elegant lady, and the Aussie actress look perfectly at home in period garb.

If her portrayal was intended to be devoid of emotion and detached from her lovers, she certainly scores full marks.

She has no chemistry with her men, which works well with her devoted husband (well-played by Lloyd-Hughes).

But there's also no spark between Wasikowska and her two on-screen lovers - young, romantic law student Leon (Miller) and the dashing, wealthy Marquis (Marshall-Green), both of whom are reduced to caricatures.

The only guy who breathes some life into Madame Bovary is Ifans as the conniving salesman, a puppet master of sorts.

While the film doesn't bother to explain Emma's motivations, it does immerse us in her monotonous life by going through the motions, plodding along slowly.

The Normandy setting is realistic and the costumes are impressive. But sadly, those are the best bits of this drab tale.

- JOANNE SOH

Rating: 2/5


THE CONSENSUS: Madame Bovary deserves someone better than Mia Wasikowska to bring it to life.

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