Movie Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire
today at 11:18 am
PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE
Running Time: 121 mins.
Where Can You See It?: In theaters now (limited release)
Premise: On an isolated island, a female painter (Noemie Merlant) is commissioned to paint a wedding portrait of a young woman (Adele Haenel), and the two fall in love while the young woman’s mother is away.
Behind-the-Scenes: Premiered to acclaim at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it picked up the award for Best Screenplay. Though it received a Golden Globe nomination for best foreign language film, its origin country (France) did not submit it to the Academy for the Best International Film Oscar. Hot Shots’ Valeria Golino appears as the mother.
The Good: Portrait is beautifully directed by Celine Sciamma (Girlhood, Tomboy), with sumptuous period detail and lush beachfront locations. It’s a deeply felt romance too, and Sciamma captures the characters’ longing quite well – every touch and glance means so much. Both lead actresses prove compelling screen presences. The painting scenes have a hypnotic quality to them. Who knew minimal brush strokes could be so fascinating? The final shot is a stunner, and will stick with you long after leaving the theater.
The Bad: It’s not exactly a fast-paced movie. These tales of repressed romance are usually a slow-burn, and Portrait is no different in that respect. It has a ton of heart and emotion, but the characters are somewhat two-dimensional. A little more humor and personality in the margins would have added a lot. Watch Little Women to see how to make a period piece feel modern and fresh – Portrait could have used some of Greta Gerwig’s touch. Call it a victim of overhype or maybe I’ve just seen too many romantic films of this ilk, but the movie does feel a tad derivative (think Carol, Brokeback Mountain), even though it’s a rock solid representative of the genre.
Should You See It?: Yes. It’s very well done, but you don’t necessarily need to seek it out in a theater. This will be a good discovery when it eventually hits streaming.
Star Rating: *** out of 5 stars
Better Than: Carol, Disobedience
Worse Than: Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name
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