“EFFIE GRAY” My rating: C+ (Opens April 3 at the Tivoli)
108 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
The Effie Gray scandal rocked Victorian society.
Today it might generate a minor shrug and possibly a pop song. (I’m thinking Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold.”) Ah, well, times change.
The subject of Richard Laxton’s film is the unhappy marriage of Scottish lass Effie Gray to the brilliant British art critic John Ruskin, a man twice her age.
Produced and scripted by Emma Thompson (who won an Oscar for her screenplay for Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility”), it stars Dakota Fanning as Effie and Greg Wise as Ruskin, who often vacationed near her home while she was growing up and, apparently, convinced himself that he was in love with the girl.
Alas, Ruskin proves to be an intellectual giant and an emotional infant. No sooner has he planted his new bride in his parents’ home than he begins ignoring her in favor of his writing.
His doting, success-driven Mama and Papa (Julie Walters, David Suchet) micromanage John’s life to minimize interruptions to his literary pursuits. The result is an antisocial man incapable of appreciating that his young wife is bored silly and can find no purpose to her life.
Most distressing of all, John refuses to touch Effie. On their honeymoon she presents her naked body to him, but he’s so grossed out he flees the room.
And to make matters worse, it seems likely that the medicine Mama Ruskin keeps pouring down her daughter-in-law’s pretty throat may be poisoning the girl.