Time: 102 Minutes
Being a fan of the book, I've been looking forward to this film for some time. LaBute does an admirable job adapting this highly literary story about two scholars who become lovers while unearthing a secret romance about two rather famous English poets. Without a doubt, this is more romantic and normal than any other movie he's directed. However, in the end, it's nothing all that interesting or exciting. Mostly, because the modern love story just doesn't work. Paltrow and Eckhart are certainly good-looking people, but there's absolutely no chemistry between them whatsoever. Clearly, they were cast to make watching two academics, who basically do nothing but read love letters, more appealing. Their romance certainly pales in comparison to the one they're discovering, so maybe that's the reason they come off as two icicles trying to thaw. Or perhaps it's just that their characters aren't as well-developed as the others. We learn very little about them over the course of the film, except that they're both afraid to get burned by love. A truly distinguishing characteristic. Otherwise, he's the goofy, unscrupulous American and she's the coolly, intelligent, British ice queen. How profound.
What saves the audience from total boredom is the story within the story. The illicit love between Randall Ash (Northam), a world-famous poet known for his single-minded devotion to his wife, and Christabel LaMotte (Ehle), one of the first feminist, i.e. lesbian, poets, who's work inspired women in generations to come, practically burns down the screen. They managed to keep their relationship a secret until Roland Michell (Eckhart) finds some letters 100 years later. Barely holding onto his position as a research assistant at the British Museum, he decides to take his leap of intuition to Maud Bailey (Paltrow), the foremost authority on Christabel LaMotte, as well as a distant relative of the poetess. Maud is skeptical of his discovery. They have proof that Ash and LaMotte met at a dinner party, but there's nothing in her research to indicate that their relationship went any further. Except the letters Roland found. What they began as a wild goose chase, quickly turns into the academic find of the century. Not only does it prove that Ash wasn't really a one-love kind of guy, but that Christabel's greatest poems were inspired by a man instead of a woman.