When you give your movie a name like Possession, you have a certain responsibility towards it. Possession isn’t a name you waste on any old flick. Possession implies conflict, turmoil, and stress. A movie named Possession ought to be about the devil, or about some mad obsessive quest to own something or someone. The last thing you’d expect is an entire film about researchers quietly reading dusty old letters. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Possession delivers.
Possession is the story of two literary sleuths, one American, one English, unearthing the soap opera like secrets of two Victorian poets. Somehow, the passionate lives they unearth affect their own, bringing the two together… or so the movie tagline goes. Frankly, I think any romantic involvement that occurs happens merely as a result of throwing two beautiful people of the opposite sex alone in a hotel room for to many nights in a row.
Possession is two distinct stories. One is the modern tale of a handsome, and badly acted American research student (Aaron Eckhart) and his staunchly British, beautiful blond companion (Gwyneth Paltrow) driving around the countryside. The other is a side story, the one that Paltrow and Eckhart uncover in their research, show in a series of historical flashbacks, which in some ways feel as if they are generally an afterthought.
The real problem here is that both stories, however they were intended to be connected, have one thing in common: They are exceedingly boring. The Victorian romance flashbacks are boring and fairly unrealistic, with the film never really spending enough time on them to inspire any great deal of investment in the characters portrayed there. The modern romance between Paltrow and Eckhart is just one big yawn. It’s over an hour into the film before there is even any HINT of romance between the two. By the time it begins, you’ve spent a good 50 minutes watching two rather boring and badly acted characters sit on the floor in various libraries and research centers reading out loud badly written love letters.
But Paltrow had to make this. She’ll wither up and blow away if she isn’t allowed to trot out that ridiculously overrated British accent of hers at least once a year. She’s a much better actor when she isn’t doing a Monty Python parody with her voice. Just because she pulled it off in a film or two, doesn’t mean that we must be eternally tortured with her mad plot to unemploy every legitimate British actor on the face of the earth. Really, couldn’t we have found a REAL Brit to fill the role? I’m told there are millions of them.
Next to her co-star Eckhart, Paltrow really comes off as a gem. It’s actually a real relief whenever the camera shifts to her, since it gives us a break from Eckhart’s stilted, pretty boy posing, and soap-opera ready acting. Maybe HE should try playing his character as a Monty Python parody too since if nothing else that would at least seem familiar.
I think the people playing the various historical figures involved in Possession can actually. However, I can’t really attest to it, since they seem to do little else while on screen except scribble on historically accurate scraps of paper with various types of ink dipped pens. What I can verify is that Jeremy Northam has lovely penmanship and I would happily recommend him for all your party invitation needs.
I knew what Possession was going in. I wasn’t really expecting a movie about the Devil. However I was expecting to stay awake, something Possession makes impossible. It is my hope, that doing this will help Paltrow finally get the British thing out of her system so she can get back to making the fine, high quality karaoke movies we’ve all grown to expect from one of America’s premiere actresses.