Video Picks & Passes
Pride & Prejudice: PICK
Bambi II: PASS
At last available on DVD, Thérèse: The Story of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Catholic actor-director Leonardo Defilippis’s reverent, uplifting, straightforward biopic of the Little Flower is the story of an “ordinary girl” with an “extraordinary soul,” in the words of the film’s tagline. Of these two clauses, the film’s special burden seems to be the first part, “ordinary girl.” As depicted here, Thérèse (played in childhood by Melissa Sumpter and from approximately 10 to her death by Lindsay Younce) is certainly pious and devout, but unlike many movie saints there’s nothing off-puttingly otherworldly or ethereal about her.
The Thérèse of this film is, indeed, so ordinary that you might ultimately feel a sort of disconnect as a closing title informs you that “Because she showed the world a ‘little way’ to get to heaven, she has been called the greatest saint of modern times.”
Thérèse covers the major events in the saint’s life, as recounted in her autobiography, Story of a Soul, but offers little insight into her teaching, little exploration of her “little way” of spiritual childhood. Despite being more focused on the saint herself than on her teaching, Thérèse is sweet, inspirational moviemaking that will be enjoyed by Catholics who love the Little Flower or who are open to learning about her.
New this week on DVD, Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice is an exquisite, joyous revisiting of an often-told tale, and is one of the best films of 2005. After the authoritative 1995 BBC five-hour miniseries adaptation of the classic Jane Austen comedy of manners, some may doubt there was any need for a new feature adaptation. But there’s always room for a version that doesn’t bother about being authoritative and doesn’t take five hours. Anyway, where the BBC version, invaluable as it is, is also a bit stodgy and stagey, Wright’s version feels lived-in and vibrant. Performances are more naturalistic, and settings and costumes look not just accurate or authentic, but inhabited and real.
The abbreviated, somewhat revisionist take on the story offered by the script (reportedly given an uncredited polish by Oscar-winning Sense and Sensibility screenwriter Emma Thompson) largely eschews the book’s social satire for romantic intrigue. Nothing in Keira Knightley’s résumé remotely suggested she was capable of this rendition of Elizabeth Bennett; her performance is both a revelation and a sheer delight.
Finally, the direct-to-video Bambi II arrives with an unusually aggressive marketing push, with a mere 10-week window for parents to pick up the Disney-lite sequel before it goes into The Vault. The sense of desperation of modern Disney’s willingness to let its second-string animation wing knock off lightweight sequels to such beloved films as Cinderella and Peter Pan has been one of the more melancholy aspects of the Disney meltdown. Bambi II closely approximates the gorgeous backgrounds and lush animation of the original, but it’s clearly a film of our time. Where Bambi had minimal dialogue and told its slow story largely through pictures and music, Bambi II is faster and talkier.
More significantly, in place of Bambi’s classic coming-of-age-story arc, Bambi II has lessons for Bambi’s aloof father, the Great Prince (Patrick Stewart), who learns to loosen up, have fun, and love his son for who he is. That’s not to say it’s bad — it’s quite harmless, and youngsters will enjoy it well enough. But it’s placebo entertainment, and does the original Bambi no favors.
- February 26-March 4, 2006