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With: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Michelle Fairley, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Tom Burke, Perdita Weeks, Joanna Scanlan, John Kavanagh, Charlotte Hope, Laurence Spellman
Written by: Abi Morgan, based on a book by Claire Tomalin
Directed by: Ralph Fiennes
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content
Running Time: 111
Date: 12/25/2013

The Invisible Woman (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Chickflick Papers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For The Invisible Woman, actor Ralph Fiennes steps behind the camera for the second time after his clever, powerful Coriolanus, but this time the results are quite a bit more tepid.

In the mid-1850s, Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) and his writing partner Wilkie Collins (Tom Hollander) are staging their play The Frozen Deep. A young actress, Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones) is introduced to Dickens. She is a fan, has read all his books, and can discuss them intelligently. They become enchanted with one another, even though Dickens is married.

Over a period of time, Dickens makes his feelings known and separates from his wife, and Nelly becomes pregnant, but he still cannot make his love or relationship for Nelly public. Add this to the fact that Dickens is at least 25 years older, and is at least half devoted to his adoring public. How can such a relationship last?

Working from a book by Claire Tomalin, Fiennes seems intent on preserving factual details, but the resulting story probably could have used some embellishment. The relationship isn't terribly steamy or illicit or passionate. Dickens doesn't seem to view Nelly as his muse, and he seems perfectly able to live -- and write -- without her.

Characters speak to one another in hushed whispers as if a great deal is at stake, but the movie never makes the motivations behind this believable or clear. Some details that seem important, such as Nelly's pregnancy, are rushed, and the characters merely look pained by the whole situation, rather than tormented or heartbroken. However, the film's design and direction and the performances are all impeccable. It's a first-class production, merely passionless.

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