I don't know about you, but I consider the above to be my tour de force. Sincere apologies to any owners of individual pictures and to the New York Times to whom I have attributed an entirely imaginary quote - but I'm sure it would be entirely true if this were indeed an actual film. And now, my friends, to the review!
The Blue Castle by the one and only LM Montgomery tends to be overlooked somewhat in comparison to the Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon series. Yet, it's one of my absolute favourite LM Montgomery's and with an older (comparatively) heroine, it just gets more and more relatable. Naturally, this means that the most exciting movie release so far of 2016 is this Warner Brothers version of The Blue Castle, directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby 2013) and starring Tom Hiddleston (War Horse) and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey).
Other casting choices include:
Robert de Niro as Roaring Abel
Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Stirling (Valancy's domineering matriarch)
Ashley Benson as Olive Sitrling
Clémence Poésy as Cecily Gay
Not wishing to change a good thing, Warner Brothers have kept the name of the film the same as the name of the book - a great start. The film itself runs fairly true to the book but omitting some of the more detailed sections - Valancy's large extended family is severely cut down with only a handful of relatives making an appearance. Other noticeable changes include combining the characters of Uncle James and Uncle Benjamin - a decision Warner Brothers said they made to "simplify the confusing family logistics presented in the novel" and having writer John Forster awarded with the Lorne Pierce Medal for literature in a "surprising twist to the end".
As in the book, the story begins with a downtrodden single 29 year old Valancy still living at home with her mother and mother's cousin, "Cousin Stickles". In a society where marriage is the life goal for every woman, Valancy is scorned and snubbed by her mother, Cousin Stickles and other members of her extended family and the rest of her home town. When she secretly finds out she has only a year to live, Valancy decides to live life her own way. She begins by caring for the shunned daughter (Clémence Poésy) of the local drunkard "Roaring Abel" (Robert de Niro in a fantastic performance) who is dying of tuberculosis and committed the unforgivable sin of birthing an illegitimate (and now deceased) son a few years previously. Following a dramatic death scene, Valancy continues to live life adventurously - proposing to none other than the shady and devastatingly mysterious Barney Snaith. After a very passionate kiss (which wasn't exactly in the book!), Barney agrees to the proposal since Valancy only has a year to live and an unconventional marriage begins. For those of you who have not read the book, I shan't spoil the ending by going further but overall I would give this imaginary movie 8/10 for its portrayal and similarity to the spirit of the original.
What I liked: Michelle Dockery as Valancy Stirling. For those of you acquainted with Michelle from Downton Abbey, fear not, she has mastered a convincing Canadian accent. Certain "Lady Mary" characteristics are certainly on play here, seen in Valancy's obstinate, passionate stand for making her own life and again in her dry humour weaving in and out of the story. The very un-Lady Mary like crushed and downtrodden personality at the beginning displays Michelle's incredible versatility and ability to truly become the character.
What could be improved: Now, whilst I think Tom Hiddleston makes a good Barney, I don't think he's quite right. Then again, no actor is really quite right for Barney. The main problem with Tom is that in the book, I'm sure I remember Barney flicking his hair off his forehead and well, Tom doesn't exactly have the hairline to do that, does he? There were a few deviations to the story, most of which I have already mentioned. They weren't too major but being a true "the book is better" person, I feel justified in continuing to stick to that maxim.
Rating: M for some crude language and suggestive material. It seems to be impossible to find a modern film without a sketchy scene in it these days and The Blue Castle stays true to form. The main scene which some viewers may wish to skip plays whilst Cecily Gay tells Valancy her story which led to the illegitimate birth. There is also some vulgar language and mild swearing during Roaring Abel's drunken scenes.
I really enjoyed creating this movie so massive thanks to the gals at Silver Scenes for hosting the blogathon and for coming up with such a great idea! Thanks also to my sister who came up with the idea of Tom Hiddleston as Barney (from someone else's casting she saw) and Michelle Dockery as Valancy Stirling.
Now it's your turn, guys, what do you think of my casting and plot? What would you do differently?