Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review- A Village Affair (DVD)

A Village Affair (DVD)
1995- British TV


100 mins.

Based on the bestselling novel by Joanna Trollope
Recently returned to England from New York City, vivacious heiress Clodagh Unwin befriends a couple new to her village. The husband is entranced by the young aristocrat, but Clodagh has eyes for someone else: his wife, Alice.

Alice has a gilded life--beautiful children, a handsome husband, and a stately home. Secretly, she’s depressed after the birth of her third child and unhappy in her marriage. Clodagh proves irresistible. But when tongues start wagging, the women learn that love might not be enough.

Based on the bestselling novel by Joanna Trollope (Friday Nights, The Rector’s Wife) and filmed in picturesque countryside, this British production stars Sophie Ward (The Shell Seekers), Kerry Fox (Welcome to Sarajevo), Nathaniel Parker (The Inspector Lynley Mysteries), Jeremy Northam (Emma, The Tudors), Michael Gough (Batman), and Claire Bloom, with a young Keira Knightley in one of her first screen roles.

I had high hopes for this movie, as I do all the books I read and films I watch. Unfortunately, the strongest emotion I had about this film was, meh. It’s just a bland and predictable story all around.

Unoriginal stereotypicalness (yes, I know it’s not a word):

1. Alice, the main character, is depressed. She’s an artist who’s been unable to get her artistic mojo back. She’s also not into sex with her husband and feels all around blah about life. She's ripe for someone to come in and get her in touch with herself again. It’s explained away as postpartum depression by her…

2. Meddling and intrusive mother-in-law who’s a famous author of gardening books and is used to getting her way. She has no problem interfering in her son and DIL’s life, running things all the time, which causes stress to Alice, but which the son is oblivious to.

3. The local who comes home after being in America is known for being the wild and adventurous girl. She’s just a bit different from all the villagers, shoving their prejudices in their face. No one knows that she’s lesbian though. They all think she had some exotic affair with an American and came back home after it went bust. But they prefer she'd leave so they don't have to look at their own small mindedness.

4. The out-of-touch husband. While in this case he's not portrayed as a complete oaf, he's so chirpy and on the surface, just going along with everything and not really looking too deeply at why Alice is miserable.

5. Small town mentality. Alice and her husband move to small town in hopes of starting a new life and getting Alice out of her rut. Everyone knows all about them before they even get there and have spread the word.

6. Gossiping old bitties aplenty.

7. There’s an older woman odd ball who bucks the conservative trend and is laughed at behind her back by the locals because she’s into new agey stuff and has a local wives club for self awareness groups.

8. The droll, henpecked husbands all having secret affairs to get away from their uptight, meddling old bittie wives.

I’m already falling asleep. Yawn.

Clodagh has come back from America after a nasty break-up. Her wealthy parents have a party and introduce her to Alice and her husband. Clodagh and the husband hit it off a little too well and this pisses Alice off. Right away she hates Clodagh. But Clodagh has eyes for Alice and insinuates herself into Alice and her husband’s lives, playing with the children, hanging out at their house all the time and helping Alice out.

Of course, the gossip is all about how Clodagh is a flirty little whore having an affair with the husband. He actually misunderstands Clodagh’s attention, which to me was excessively flirty, and comes on to her, claiming it’s just a vacation from his wife and marriage even though he’s never done that before and he does love Alice. It’s just a side thing. :/

What’s really going on is the Clodagh is trying to subtly woo Alice. And she does. Her vibrant and insinuating energy does get Alice out of her rut and she starts to feel more alive because of Clodagh.
That was weird to me, because she really came across as coming on to the husband. Why would she do that if it’s Alice she wanted? This was part of the reason I didn’t get too turned on about the lesbian affair in this case. Or didn’t buy is a much as I could have.

When Clodagh finally admits that she’s a lesbian and wants Alice, Alice falters in shock for like two seconds, then she’s all over Clodagh.
OK. I could see it even though Alice is a bit too stoic in it all and doesn’t really come across as overly excited about it.

She and Clodagh do spend the next few weeks though playing and having sex and enjoying, saying I love you’s all the time. It’s clear that they do have feelings for each other. How strong they are though, will be tested.

9. It’s all about the kids.

When the shit hits the fan and it all comes out, there’s a lot of yakkity yak, old bittie flouncing, overacting: both Clodagh and the husband are devastated with lots of anguished tears and melodrama, as Alice vacillates between the husband and Clodagh. However, Alice just kind of goes on with her life, not really seemingly too concerned about the devastation she’s caused. The big issue is that she doesn’t want to lose her kids and can she really live a lesbian life?

There’s nothing really wrong with this film, it just didn’t spark anything in me. I think I even surfed the net a bit while it was running. Not a good sign.

I thought the scenes between the women were nicely done though. There was no shying away from any physical, nude or not, contact and declarations of love, that might shock for a TV movie. But it wasn’t salacious either, trying for titillation. The Brits, from what I’ve seen of BBC productions, aren’t afraid of real lesbians in their movies. So I thought that was actually cool of them to produce this even if it didn't say anything new.

It wasn’t all negative about the small town thing. There were some characters who support Alice being a lesbian and offer to still be her friend after she and Clodagh have been shunned. At least they didn’t make it all stereotypical. It’s just too bad that the whole movie fell into ho hum typical ending territory. It could have been such a dynamic, pro lesbian story.

Heat level: 2- some nudity, implied sex mostly.


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