Many readers will be familiar with AS Byatt’s Booker-winning 1990 novel, Possession. Some of you will be curious how such a work could be translated to the big screen, especially by American Neil LaBute (In The Company Of Men) who is better known for violence laced with misogyny, although he did direct the quirky Nurse Betty. Possession is an odd choice for LaBute, who was assisted with the screenplay by David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) and Australian Laura Jones (Oscar And Lucinda).
This is a very dusty, tight-bodice adaptation of A.S. Byatt to say the least, made worse because we have Hollywood selling us a quintessentially English story. Gwyneth Bloody Paltrow plays an ever-so-uptight, frosty academic and Aaron Eckhart plays the brash researcher (British in the book), really an ugly American abroad, who will save the poor British academic from herself. The Victorian love story component of the film, played by the gorgeous Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam, is more successful and we glimpse the erotic side of Victorian poetry. We also have a lesbian sub-theme to add to the tragedy.
Unfortunately, the normally hard-edged LaBute has taken scholarly writing and reduced it to a reasonably intelligent but lifeless mishmash. A good time-passer but nothing more.