Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review- Fingersmith (Movie)

by Sarah Waters
Historical (Victorian era-ish)/Lesbian

Dark deeds and intrigue abound when petty thief Sue Trinder (Sally Hawkins) helps con man Richard Rivers (Rupert Evans) defraud a wealthy heiress, Maud Lilly (Elaine Cassidy), of her inheritance. But Trinder's plans are thwarted when she falls in love with Lilly. The tale twists as the young women are separated but come to realize the strength of their passion for each other in this BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters Booker's novel.

I’m on a hot roll these days with good films. I found out about Fingersmith after watching Tipping the Velvet, both by Sarah Waters and both BBC productions. I’ve read through several sources that Fingersmith was a better book/story, but I think they both have their good and bad points.

Right from the beginning, Fingersmith sucked me in with the drama and intensity of it. There’s a definite gothic feel to it and as it progresses--- love, betrayals and long kept secrets within mysteries come to light that have a major affect on the characters and how they act. It’s rich, dark and ambient with an assortment of vibrantly fleshed out characters.

I haven’t read any of Sarah Water’s books, but I do know that in both Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith she focused on a lesbian/sexual element during the Victorian era. Unlike Tipping the Velvet though, the love story between Susan and Maud in Fingersmith is very subdued, but was an underlying, connecting theme. Personally, I wish it was more in the forefront, and that the love story between the women was more built up and intense, but it was still a satisfying part of the story ultimately.

The trouble, I think, is that I didn’t read the book. I suspect that the romantic angle was more nuanced in the book since the film could only provide so much. Although from the special section Sarah Waters was happy with the movie representation as well as many reviewers who compared to the book.

Outside of the slight romance in this film, there was a huge wow factor for me in the story itself. I love dark, intense stories with a touch of mystery wherein characters’ passions create havoc and a compelling drama. Fingersmith has all of it. It’s perfectly presented with great dialogue, costumes, set designs and of course, amazing acting.

The movie starts out with Maud being a young girl taken by an uncle from a mad house she’s been brought up in. Her mother was put there by her mother’s brother and father and died there. The uncle brings her to his manor not to be part of the family but to be is secretary. He’s a lover of books, rare and first edition, and he has her reading them to his friends as well as editing and looking them over for quality. She’s rather quiet and reflective and keeps her feelings to herself. She hates being there but is resigned to the fact that as a woman, she has no choices.

Susan was brought up in a very poor area of London by a woman (Mrs. Sucksby) who runs a band of thieves. She’s good at what she does and loves Mrs. Sucksby, who took her in as an orphaned baby. Another one of their band, Richard, seduces Maud under the guise of being a gentleman and gets Susan in the house to be her maid so they can defraud Maud of her inheritance. Susan is reluctant to leave Mrs. Sucksby but the reward of 3000 £ to help them convinces her.

Once at the manor, she takes care of Maud who seems so innocent while feeling an internal struggle about betraying her. When Richard comes back and they all secretly plan the marriage between Richard and Maud, truths become exposed and there are a string of betrayals and shocking secrets that come out one after another.

The film is done in two parts, as apparently the book is written. Part one of the film is basically from Susan’s POV. Part two of the film tells the story, the same events, from Maud’s POV. It shows a completely different picture to the viewer of the events and we see that Maud is not what she seems either.

All of this culminates to a tragic, but happy for now ending for both Susan and Maud.

For those who wish to know, there are only two sex scenes and no nudity, so they are done more as an accent to the sexual/romantic aspects of the story, rather than being the main representation of the romantic part.

I definitely recommend this movie if you can get it. It’s a movie I’d probably watch again just to catch the little details that were so abundant, that I probably missed.

Heat level- 1

Grade: A+


Cathy in AK said...

It sounds like the movie stayed true to the book, which is great. There was little in the way of sex scenes there too, but the relationship between Susan and Maud was intense. Loved the twists at the end : )

I was writing my sfr when I read Fingersmith and had a bit of a panic moment where I thought "OMG, I'm doing the same thing!!" But I'm sure I'm not the first to write about a con artist who falls for her mark : ) And I'm no Sarah Waters. She's definitely worth learning from though.

LVLM said...

Cathy- yes, from other reviews on Amazon, it was fairly true.

I might have to read the book because it was clear that the girls have an attraction, but the intensity didn't come through too much. Or I was spoiled by Tipping the Velvet since it was so palpable in that movie. I have the feeling in the book it was way more developed.

The twist not only in the end, but all through the story, dang, it was like one shock after another, which I totally loved.

As far as a con falling for her mark theme, I think it went different here because Susan actually goes through with it. They don't get into cahoots with each other to trick the contractor, which is usually the norm.

So I liked that both girls in a way were willing to be selfish and not go the common route.

This is what made this a compelling story. That even though everyone loved each other in a way, Maud -Susan, Susan -Maud, Mrs. Sucksy- Susan- Maud, Susan-Maud-Mrs. Sucksby, they were all willing to betray it for money or freedom.

I love when stories deviate from the "good" always wins. It becomes much more psychologically real and human.

I just bought The Little Stranger, and am hoping it's as compelling as the others.

M. A. said...

I bought "The Little Stranger" over a month ago. I've never had enough time to read beyond Chapter 2, but I am VERY interested in this book and can hardly wait for the semester to end so I can really give it the attention it deserves.

Cathy in AK said...

I haven't read The Little Stranger but understand it's a bit different from her usual fare. Let me know how it is, but don't tell me if you don't like it : )

LVLM(Leah) said...

Cathy--- you're so funny. If it has a lesbian theme or there is some lesbian coupleship happening, then I'll probably review it. But I'll email you if you should not visit the blog to see the review. ;)