Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Review of a Keira Knightley Period Piece

CleverEuphemism (CE) here and I wanted to talk about a Keira Knightley movie. You know, the period piece she did. No, not that one, the other one. Oh, no, I mean the other one… you know… oh wait…IT’S ALL SHE FRIKKEN’ DOES, NEVERMIND.

I think she was born with this outfit on, really. I feel bad for her mom.

Okay, so the film I am specifically reviewing is Atonement. Partly because the local Cynic never will review this movie, and because this movie review comes with the delicious side dish of a personal anecdote you all will love, promise… but you have to keep reading to get to it. (Yeah that’s what we call a teaser)

It’s a period love story based on a book. Come on, it would be illegal if it didn’t star Keira Knightley.

Now, let me bring you back to the year 2007. It was long ago, I know. 2007 saw a number of great movies grace the silver screen that year, including: There Will be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Michael Clayton, Juno, American Gangster, and Atonement. (Yes, see, some years actually have a number of legitimately great movies. 2007 has been my measuring stick for the last 3 years, and none of them have measured up) And while all those movies are movies people should see, Atonement is my favorite out of the bunch, and the one that still haunts me. (There Will be Blood is probably the best “film” out of the bunch though, in my opinion at least)

And looking at these two (James McAvoy and Knightley) for a couple hours is better than looking at a bowl-headed Javier Bardem or grungy Daniel Day Lewis any day of the week.

Atonement is about a star-crossed couple who quickly find themselves in a quickly progressing relationship, only to be torn apart by the pressures of the caste system of early-20th century England, and this small thing called World War part Deux.

Not only did he kill people, but he destroyed healthy and budding relationships between beautiful Brits, which may be the worst crime of all.

So most of this movie focuses on the duo as they are pulled apart because of war and their different social statuses. But of course, like any good English movie based on a book, the protagonists fight in the name of love, and it is hard not to root for the two of them. In fact, the movie doesn’t allow you to not be on their side.

In short, this movie is very aggressive in playing with the audiences’ heart strings. Joe Wright, the director of the film, uses a number of important shots to the plot again and again, inter-splicing it with other scenes. There is a lot of temporal jumping around in the film, but it works because of its consistency and simplicity. The haunting voice over, and consistent echoing of Keira’s “Come back to me….,” and the incessant sound of the clicking of the typewriter, two important auditory clues and motifs, both linger in my ears to this day.

The cinematography of this film is nothing short of stunning either. In particular, the scene on the shores of Dunkirk is something that I would argue is one of the most evocative scenes I’ve ever seen. You can see the scene here (it is a little intense, fair warning):

I am a sucker for a 5 minute tracking shot showing war torn men coming to grips with it.

There are a number of other particular scenes which are just as strong visually, just in different ways.

The film is also well acted not only by Knightley and McAvoy, but really the entire cast. In fact, in my cinematic life I have never come to despise (in the best of ways) a character more than Briony Tallis (portrayed by Saoirse Ronan who was nominated for an Oscar for this performance).

Don’t allow her alien looks fool you; she is the epitome of evil, and someone who never “gets it.”

Atonement wound up winning the Golden Globe for best Drama in 2007, beating out the eventual Oscar Best Picture No Country for Old Men, and the highly regarded There Will be Blood. So the film is well esteemed. And most people I have known who have seen this film admire it as well. So if this movie is missing from your mental index, I highly recommend you correct this crime. But, if I have been unable to convince you yet:

Yeah, there is more of where this came from.

Cecilia (Knightley): [After Robbie breaks Cecilia family’s vase] You idiot… You realize that’s probably the most valuable thing we own?

Robbie (McAvoy): Not anymore it isn’t.

And that’s the end of this post…. Oh wait… I promised you an anecdote, didn’t I? Oooh fine. But it is only coming at the end because it contains MASSIVE SPOILERS. If you have not seen this film and plan on doing so, STOP READING RIGHT NOW. Or, if you just don’t care, go on ahead:

So, when this movie came out when back when, I was the only person I knew who really wanted to see it. Well, one day I got done hanging out with friends a little early and decided “Hey, maybe I should go catch a flick. Oh yeah, that Atonement movie is out that I want to see, I guess I can go catch that!,” and so I did. And wouldn’t you know my luck, the theatre was completely empty when I walked in like 5 minutes to show time, which was good since this seemed to be one of those tear jerker kind of movies, and I am known to get weepy sometimes. So now I felt like I had some cover, since I would be alone. I took my seat, dead center of the theatre and was strapped in for the movie. But then, just as the lights began to dim…..

….a swarm of old ladies walked in. I am not talking like 5-10. I mean like 60 old ladies walked in. Women beyond the age of 70. And suddenly, I was trapped. As it turns out old women have no semblance of “personal space” and they surrounded me. But that’s okay, I mean, they didn’t smell of anything.

Anyway, as the movie progressed I was rather surprised, it seemed like it would be a happy ending. I think I was a little emotional over that fact anyway, but hey, everyone lived happily ever after, so I would avoid any melt down. Yeah, well, then Briony admits that she made the whole goddamn ending up and bamboozled us, and I was left shattered.

The movie ends, and I am sitting in my seat, trying to fight back the tears.

Yeah, I really tried to keep my decency. (Also, despite what the illustration shows, the old women were actually happy. I mean, SMILING and were completely unaffected. You would've thought they were watching Matlock or something.)

I was waiting for the old women to get up so I could go bawl in privacy or something. But no.. that was not in the books for lil ol’ CE. No, instead the women sat there and began discussing the differences between the movie and the book. OMG IT WAS A BOOK CLUB OUTING! And so they all knew the twist and were not nearly as emotional as me. So I sat there for 2-3 minutes, trying to wait them out, but then I just couldn’t and got up and pushed my way out the middle of the aisle just sniffling my whole way to my car, at which point I bawled and banged on things and probably yelled “FUCK YOU BRIONY YOU FUCKING TWATWAFFLE!1111!!111!!”… oooh… 109 times or so.

But hey, at least this drove me to read the book, and that was a good thing.



  1. Oh god, the ending destroyed me! Is it embarrassing to admit that I love a good KK period piece? Oh well.

  2. As it turns out old women have no semblance of “personal space” and they surrounded me. But that’s okay, I mean, they didn’t smell of anything.

    ... I shouldn't laugh, really I shouldn't...

  3. hey she did bend it like beckham, and domino, and love actually, and the jacket


    I. Am. Done.

  5. Manda: Depends on the piece, of course, of course. =P

    Simon MH: Smell is an important way to judge people by. MLK Jr. never said about the inequity of BO.

    Morose: Those are periods least that is what they will say of the 90s in the future!

    Simon: You are wise beyond your years.


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