“It’s this year’s Atonement, only better.” WTF?

Posted in Uncategorized by Joie on June 9, 2008

What began as my own personal crusade to defend the honor of the Great Lady, Kiera Knightley, against the barrage of contempt expressed by my office coworkers lead to a startling discovery. Of course, I went on IMDB, search under Kiera’s filmography, and came across the film noted above.

Another WWII melodrama. You might ask, what’s wrong with Kiera, what does she typecast herself in old-fashioned gowns and regalia from bygone eras? Even though it was the role as a secondhand soccer player that shot her to stardom, leaving her Indian co-star in the dustbins of ER repeats, she still managed to insert herself perfectly into any period, whether it was Austen’s England or revisionist Camelot. Perhaps, it’s that bone structure, the always anorexic look that resists the flux of standards defining beauty at each stage of human history. She’s not a chameleon, a label more fitting for the likes of Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman. At the same time, her distinct physicality and pompous Britishness leaves female viewers in the throes of envy and disgust, while straight men can only admire indiscriminately.

It was Pride and Prejudice that made me appreciate the acting chops of Ms. Knightley. Her interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet uncovers a hopeless giddy schoolgirl behind the peasant garments and abrasive wit, supplying a dimension refutably absent in past adaptations and Austen’s own novel. The look Lizzy gives to the Big D (Mr. Darcy) as he lifts her off onto the carriage brims with a pleasant radiance of utter shock and conflicted pleasure. But enough of my praise since her “Cecilia” in Atonement sealed the deal for me. Transforming from the frigid aristocrat to the riches-to-rags girlfriend in waiting, Kiera outdoes the stereotype and draws our attention towards the film’s cathartic reveal.

I have no doubts about her upcoming role, but I loathe the marketing strategy of Lionsgate (the distributor) who dares to blur the glaring differences between the two films. Relocating a familiar face and setting into a totally new context is the ultimate practice of deception in the world of images and its self-conscious irony. “You know it’s not the same, but you’ll believe it nonetheless.” A review from a women’s magazine, She, contributed to the outrageous quote for this post.

Considering that both movies involve the existence of a writer, as historical figure (poet Dylan Thomas) or overarching narrative God (Briony), the underlying connection lies closer to matters of the heart—LOVE between men and women, or if the lesbian undertone isn’t explicit enough, between paparazzi icons of their generation (denied by the producers, championed by the press). If Atonement was marketed as romantic epic like its predecessors, then The Edge of Love no longer is an effect of that lineage, but a bastardized duplication of the 2007 film. Again, I’m not attacking the film but how it is advertised: the innocuous frolicking along the beach, the insistent repetition of “Come back,” and most of all, a meat shot of a TYPEWRITER. You’re not Briony, Dylan Thomas. Coyly promising an emotional impact as poignant as its half-sister, the trailer delivers less of a preview, than a recap. Blasphemy, indeed!

Kiera is back, war casts a bleak future, and all we can think of is the fragility that hangs within our reach. If you’re a fan of the former, then you can sift through the compare-and-contrast stills below and spot the original, not necessarily the fraud.

Watch the trailers and judge for yourself:

Kiera, Sienna, Cillian, Matthew, whatevs: Out in the UK, June 20th. US: TBA

Cecilia and Robbie


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