Movie Review: Angel directed by François Ozon



Directed by François Ozon
Angel Deverell – Romola Garai
Esme Howe- Nevinson – Michael Fassbender
Theo Gilbright (Angel’s publisher) Sam Neil
Nora Howe-Nevinson (sister of Esme) – Lucy Russell


Once upon a time there was a girl with dark auburn curls, green eyes, clear, pale complexion and vivid imagination. She lived with her mother over their small grocery shop and her name was Angel.Angel’s imagination was her biggest blessing and curse.

On the one hand she was able to entertain herself by creating romantic stories about aristocratic ladies and some dashing fellows madly in love – mind you we are speaking here about the period before WWI so without the Internet and tv. On the other hand, instead of helping dutifully her frail, widowed mother the girl hated the shop and wasn’t interested in all the gritty reality around her – always a portent of doom . Her mother didn’t notice the danger – more often than not she acted as Angel’s servant, smoothing things out and carrying trays with supper or breakfast for the spoiled, sulking progeny. Mrs. Thatcher, the most famous shopkeeper’s daughter, should teach that girl a lesson or two about being proud of your station in life.

Several pink, frilly novels later Angel found a brave London publisher who asked for her manuscripts, read them carefully and decided to buy one of the books. The romance was selling surprisingly well so after the first she sold also the second and the third novel – a real series of successes. In no time Angel became a rich, fashionable authoress even though her work hardly deserved the fame and money. She had all the markings of a classic literary hack – she worshiped her own talent, she didn’t accept a word of criticism even concerning obvious mistakes like making one of her characters open a bottle of champagne with…a corkscrew. She became as bigheaded as your average celebrity bimbo in no time and tons of money she’s been earning fast didn’t help either .

Then she fell in love with the idea of being in love and getting Mr. Right-and-Handsome. Dreary, dreary me.As you might guess her choice was as unfortunate as her literary creations – a young, penniless amateur painter from impoverished gentry. He was called Esme and was very handsome but also notorious as a womaniser, gambler and drunk, with an enormous ego to match. Even his sister, Nora, a big fan of Angel’s novels and of Angel herself, warned her beloved authoress against him. In vain. Angel proposed (sic!) to him and married the man. Their union was a disaster mainly because Angel never stopped being selfish, treating Esme like a new, big pet. All was finished by his suicide after he returned, crippled for life, from the war. Small wonder – if I had to live in a big, pretentious sarcophagus of a house, full of false antiques straight from your average Dracula movie set, with Angel as my host,  I would hang myself as well. It was called ‘Paradise’, you know. The name alone beggs for troubles.Ok, to cut a long synopsis short the movie ends with Angel dying of pneumonia because she, heavily depressed, went outside only in her nightie looking for her favourite white kitten. Foolish to the very end, our Angel was, and life, after all, is to some extent about the survival of the fittest.

My impressions:

I liked the fact that this movie was full of cats and Irish wolfhounds – they are lovely creatures. Some of Angel’s dresses weren’t bad as well (look at the movie poster above). And one scene was simply brilliant: Angel has just returned with her hubby from a honeymoon – among other countries they visited Greece . Trying to be a good sister-in-law she brought Nora a bottle containing water from the sacred spring in Delphi, allegedly supposed to give poetic vein to whoever drinks it. You see Nora was writing poems but without any success so it seemed to be a very nice gift, right? Now Angel asks Nora to wait a bit behind the door, takes the bottle out, drinks some of the precious liquid, then she replenishes the bottle from her washbasin, she asks poor Nora to come in and presents her with the bottle , grinning widely. Here, my dear, be a great poetess, it doesn’t matter the contents are a bit artificial! It was precious! Still one scene cannot save the whole movie.

Overall this movie could have been called : ‘Barbara Cartland: The Early Years’. Dismissive of others (‘I quite like Shakespeare, except when he’s trying to be funny’), Angel triumphs with such titles as ‘On Violet Banks’ – purple prose, nothing else. Even if she supports good ideas (she is a staunch pacifist) she expresses them in such a manner that it is really hard to agree with her at all. Actually when I come to think about it, Angel’s character construction was not that bad – she was even interesting because as flawed as, say, Scarlet O’Hara. There might be something sympathetic, as well as pathological, about someone who so persistently turns their back on the real world to inhabit one of their own creation. However if you meet such a person, no matter how lovely he or she is, run away in the opposite direction FAST and never look back. EVER.

Still, it was an average flick about one horrible author of horrible books who, despite an incredible and undeserved bout of good luck, managed to botch up her life and pretty much everything else. Very depressing. Almost like most of the scenes of this cheap production – apparently the budged was so dismally low that they couldn’t afford one single day of shooting in a decent location, relying on unconvincing back projection work, and then doctored it sometimes with comical results. The acting was almost as bad as the decorations, although Romola Garai, playing Angel, had some good moments (as described above).Mr. Michael Fassbender – I really commiserate, the things a decently-looking man is forced to do just to keep going his acting career… and the cameras were rather unflattering this time. Apart from your square Teutonic teeth (I have these myself, sigh, I know, nothing can be done) I managed to notice your really big and ugly ears. Yes ladies, don’t look too closely at the head of this gentleman, look …elsewhere.Mr. Sam Neill – getting old is not nice, getting old as an actor is doubly so and being cast in such rubbish movies…I hope you were paid well at least. Still, old or not, it would be nice to present to the audience more than one facial expression. Remember, you were paid for it.

What I found out: Elizabeth Taylor wrote a novel? Really? Some people even call it a masterpiece. A ghost writer must have helped her but still…I hope the actual book is better than this adaptation. Actually I would like to read it.

Final verdict: Perhaps charming but still a failure and a bit of waste of time. It’s better to clean your flat instead. I watched it because Heidenkind dared me. I promise to do better next time.

Angel (2007 film)
Angel (2007 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nora pampering her favourite authoress – the things fans
do for love…
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