Mr. Otter and I were very excited when we saw previews of this biopic about JMW Turner, the British painter, in our local movie house. Not only did it look like an intelligent and interesting exploration of Turner’s life and works, but the time period (late 18th/early 19th century) is one that I am particularly fond of, and one of our favorite actors, Timothy Spall, plays Turner.
Wow, we said, that looks great, we have to go!
And soon enough, the movie came to town and we did.
And we were partially right.
This movie is indeed about Turner. It does take place in that period. It does star Timothy Spall, and he is indeed very very good in the role. It even takes place in the aforementioned time period.
The part we were mistaken about was how good we thought it would be.
Now, don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t BAD. This is a slice-of-life movie, taking place during about the last twenty years of Turner’s life. The settings, costumes, filming, details…everything was amazingly good. The period details were excellent; I didn’t see a single mistake, and while I’m not an expert, I have seen movies (including one or two versions of Austen novels) that made me scream and throw things at the screen. This was really meticulously detailed.
And, because Turner was a landscape painter, the filmmakers went out of their way to actually film the landscapes to reflect Turner’s impressionist painting style. It really was beautifully made.
What it was not…was great. This was a series of connected occurences, some of which had to do with each other, some of which did not. It was simply the last 20 or so years of Turner’s life, and like most lives, there was no denoument. He lived and died, as did people around him, and he painted and had various relationships with others…and that was pretty much it.
Granted, that’s about what you’d say about anyone’s life (barring the painting) but they don’t make movies about most of us.
It was pretty, well made, well acted, interesting…but not something I recommended to anyone who is not interested in the period or the painter.