Reviewer's Rating 2 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Possession (2002)

Academic detective work is hardly the subject matter for a gripping movie.

Scrabbling around in libraries, reading through dusty old manuscripts, and dealing with university politics may work well on the printed page, but it's not exactly going to be "Indiana Jones" on the big screen.

So it's something of a surprise to see AS Byatt's Booker Prize-winning novel getting a big budget transfer.

Gwyneth Paltrow gets to try an English accent on for size again as uptight academic Maud Bailey, who discovers a literary treasure trove of adulterous love-letters written by Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash (played in flashbacks by Jeremy Northam).

Teaming up with American scholar Roland (Eckhart), Maud travels across the country tracing the letters in a rush to find them before any of their fellow academics discover the secret and beat them to it.

In the process, Maud and Roland begin to fall in love and their rivalry gives way to romance.

Suffocated by its fussy script and uptight characters, this musty adaptation is all the more annoying since it's been packaged and sold back to us by Hollywood.

Funded by dollars, with American actors in the two leads roles and an American director (the usually far more discerning Neil LaBute) at the helm, the film's catalogue of eccentric English stereotypes are approached without a single grain of irony - as if the Transatlantic production team thought they were everyday folk.

But what really grates is the stultifying bourgeois nature of the whole project. This is a middle-class, middle of the road movie that drags itself towards a supremely underwhelming conclusion.

Lacking the intelligence of an arthouse picture, or the classy sheen of a British production, "Possession" isn't possessed of anything other than over-wrought emotionalism and unintentional silliness.

End Credits

Director: Neil LaBute

Writer: Neil LaBute, David Henry Hwang, Laura Jones

Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, Lena Headey, Holly Aird, Toby Stephens

Genre: Drama

Length: 102 minutes

Cinema: 25 October 2002

Country: USA

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