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Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary

Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary

“MADAME BOVARY” My rating: B 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It is wise to approach a new screen version of Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” with caution. (And today in KC we see the openings of two cinematic interpretations…see my review of “Emma Bovary.”)

In even the best of productions Flaubert’s tale of a foolish young wife — so convinced that she deserves a life of romance and luxury that she drives herself and her poor sap of a husband to ruin — is a downer.

The movies’ track record with Emma Bovary is spotty.  Americans are most familiar with the 1949 version starring Jennifer Jones, a spectacular beauty who oozed sexuality. It was easy enough to view her Emma as born to wickedness, and the character’s ultimate downfall must have proven particularly satisfying to misogynists who could argue that this is just the way these silly women are.

Now director Sophie Barthes emphasizes the tragedy in Flaubert’s tale by casting as Emma the wan Mia Wasikowska, who at age 25 could pass for a teenager. No voluptuary, Wasikowska — we first noticed her as the title character in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” — has the physical presence of  a gawky adolescent.

In fact, Barthes and Felipe Marino’s screenplay opens with young Emma being educated by nuns. She’s a free spirit, though, who won’t follow instructions, and the next thing you know she’s being married off to country doctor Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) and planted in his drab house in a drab village filled with drab people.

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