Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wide Sargasso Sea (1993)

Wide Sargasso Sea (1993)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Based on the Jean Rhys-penned prequel to Jane Eyre, the film revolves around Antoinette, a white Creole heiress, who is set to marry a mysterious Englishman by the name of Edward Rochester.

WHAT I THOUGHT: The story follows young Antoinette in the years after the slave emancipation in British-occupied Jamaica. The caste clash and resentments harbored by the now-freed slaves serve to make life strained and uncomfortable for Antoinette's family: being that they are one of the few previous-slave-owning families living in the area. When they are forcibly removed from their home by an angry mob, Antoinette's family is shattered, sending her fragile mother into a mental tailspin of crazy.

And, oh my, but crazy runs in the family!

Time marches on, and we find the girl again, now grown into a beautiful young woman. We discover that Antionette's step-father has arranged a long-distance marriage for her with an attractive stranger -- a young Englishman, Edward Rochester. Despite social shyness and misgivings, the two are instantly smitten and eagerly tie the knot. However as the honeymoon spell wears away, both Edward and Antoinette find themselves bound in an awkward union with growing contempt and little breathing room.

I found this to be a heavy piece of work that eventually collapsed under the weight of its own seriousness and uncomfortable sex scenes. How delightfully mysterious Rochester appeared to be in Jane Eyre, all dark and severe with a secretive past! Though this story is ret-conned into the canon, it forces you to look at poor Edward through newly suspicious eyes. Oh, how unromantic it all seems when he's choking you during sex.

Never a good idea to just SURPRISE that sort of bullshit on your woman.

The first half of the film moves along with promise (save for the extensive French and Creole dialects which almost require subtitling) -- Antionette's tragic childhood, her rekindled happiness with the arrival of a husband, those precious first few days. While readers of the novel would no doubt be privy to the slow decline of their relationship, in this shortened film version it's difficult to say exactly what goes wrong. The tension is supposed to build because of Rochester's growing mistrust of the freed-slaves who work as paid servants in the household, as well as his discomfort about his wife's affection for them. The subtle, post-colonial racism warps his emotions -- and Antionette's in turn -- as she feels rejected and humiliated. However, this motivation isn't broadcast nearly loud enough to the audience at home. From where I sat, the downfall of Edward and Antionette seemed to lie somewhere between the steamy, passionate nights and the shame-faced, sober mornings.

Shrieks of "DIE! DIE!" while making love do not go over so well the next day.

Though Jamaica is a long way removed from refined, Victorian England, it seems to me that screaming violent obscenities at your loved one while plowing them sideways is something a proper English gentleman might regret in the harsh light of day. In this particular film adaptation of Wide Sargasso Sea, this seems to be the case. Despite the racial and cultural tensions (and -- natch! -- Antionette's hereditary madness) the Rochesters' marriage begins to disintegrate right around the time they get extra-freaky.

The latter half of the movie consists of everyone in the film being irritated, with little left interest to the audience. Instead of tensions coming to a boil, they sort of fizzle to nothing without a narrative climax, weaving the remaining plot threads into the gray and somber beginnings of Jane Eyre. While I found the basic concept to be a candid window into a classic literary character's tortured past, I probably could have done without seeing my beloved Edward Rochester trying to rape anyone.

Really such a waste. Things started off so civil.

ROMANCE: For about 10 solid minutes, it's all roses and wine. C+.
EYE-CANDY: Full-frontal nakedness abound. Look at Rochester's penis! A.
COSTUMES: A handful of gorgeous French colonial gowns. B+.

OVERALL RATING: Ultimately way too depressing to be romantic. C.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feast of July (1995)

Feast of July (1995)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A woman with a tumultuous past becomes the object of affection for three brothers, sparking obsession in the heart of the youngest.

WHAT I THOUGHT: The film begins as Bella, a young woman (Embeth Davidtz), struggles across the forbidding British midlands, alone. Beaten to exhaustion by the wind and the cold, she eventually collapses within the meager refuge of a deserted cabin -- where she gives birth to a stillborn baby. Weak and desperate, Bella buries the infant beneath a cairn and endeavors to make her way to the nearest town. Arriving in the dead of night, weary to the brink of death, Bella is taken in by a charitable old man who chances across her in the street.

Sooooooo cheerful! D8

Despite these bleak beginnings, things vastly (and swiftly!) improve for young Bella. Given a bed, food, clothes -- and not to mention relentless, good-natured support -- Bella convalesces. While her past remains a curiosity to the family that rescued her, she is nevertheless warmly received: most notably by Mr. Wainwright's three handsome sons. With the blood, dirt and sorrow freshly washed from Bella's face, they find her to be an extraordinarily beautiful girl. In turn, she is both kind and mysterious -- which prompts Con (Ben Chaplin), Jedd (James Purefoy), and Matty (Kenneth Anderson) to simultaneously fall head-over-heels for her.

Oh drat, what an unfortunate predicament.

It is both uncomfortable and wildly unfortunate that all of the Wainwright brothers should fall for the same girl. While the elder two, Jedd and Matty, are more successful and confident -- and would, therefore, both make fine husbands -- it becomes QUITE CLEAR that the youngest, Con, is absolutely insane-beyond-all-reason in love with Bella. Con is boyish and shy, prone to passionate outbursts of emotion, and completely incapable of dealing with his growing jealousy. And yet, all uncertainty aside, Con is steadfast in his support of Bella, despite her cryptic past -- whispering and gossip be damned.

And he can be awfully persuasive...

Bella struggles with her feelings for all three men, while coping with her share of unforgivable secrets. Ghosts of the past resurface, casting shadows and seeding doubt. As her true heart's wants become ever clearer, she must decide between living a lie and revealing everything -- though the price of love may ultimately be paid in blood.

Based on the novel by H.E. Bates, this story is often compared (in tone) to the works of Thomas Hardy. Indeed, Feast of July is a tale filled with hopeful romance, forever darkened by violence and tragedy -- similar to Hardy's more popular tales. This Merchant Ivory film adaptation is filled with raw emotion, both desirous and sorrowful. The cast is quite good across the board, with Ben Chaplin's Con being by far the most powerful actor -- perfectly capturing the joyful, irrational, desperate melodrama of youth.

Poor, sweet, impulsive Con.

Feast of July is not recommended for the EASILY-DESTROYED, as it is sure to rip softer hearts to pieces. I found myself having to pause the movie more than once to dab my puffy, crying eyes with a tissue (feeling bitterly hurt, yet unable to tear myself away). I would strongly recommend that you keep some Kleenex nearby! Still, if you find yourself undaunted and in the mood for something both romantic and tragic, this beautifully shot film is guaranteed to enchant.

ROMANCE: Pining love! Ardent amour! A.
EYE-CANDY: A sexy, passionate scene or two. Ben Chaplin is marvelously sexy. B.
COSTUMES: Wonderful, Victorian working-class garb. A.

OVERALL RATING: Haunting, devastating, and powerful. A.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Claim (2000)

The Claim (2000)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A prospector sells his wife and infant daughter in exchange for a gold mine. 20 years later, the irredeemable mistakes of his past resurface.

WHAT I THOUGHT: I was only a few minutes into this film when I had to pause it and shriek aloud to no one in particular, "Hey, wait a minute! This is a god-damned Thomas Hardy novel!" If you're a fan of Hardy's work, you will doubtless recognize this as an updated adaptation of his classic novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. The setting has been whirled away to the harsh, unforgiving landscape of the 19th century Yukon -- as if the story weren't harsh and unforgiving enough! Ho ho! If you count yourself among those unfamiliar with Thomas Hardy's tale, you're in for a treat! Wait... did I say "a treat"? Silly me. I meant to say "horrible, soul-crushing despair"! I always get those two confused.

Meet Daniel Dillon: Irish immigrant and scoundrel. Dragging his beleaguered wife and infant daughter with him through an icy Canadian hell, he discovers that the gold rush has long since up and rushed away. In a fit of desperation, Dillon does what seems only natural -- he sells his wife and kid in exchange for a claim of land.

You really are a world-class shit.

20 years later, and we find that Dillon has done quite well with his claim. He's resurrected himself as an established businessman, de-facto police chief, resident favorite-son and unofficial mayor of a town called Kingdom Come. Thankfully, he also seems to have grown a conscience in the meantime -- all-but scrambling to redeem himself when his (now ex) wife, Elena, and his (now grown) daughter, Hope, appear unexpectedly. There is an unavoidable awkwardness as he is confronted by the sins of his past, but neither woman is seeking drama. Though we long for Dillon to get swift and righteous comeuppance for his crimes -- he quickly squashes our hopes by being irritatingly DECENT about the whole thing. He implores Elena that all he desires is to make right what was wronged, to provide for her and their daughter.

The women's arrival coincides with that of a young man named Dalglish, a surveyor with the Central Pacific Railroad who is debating routing the line through Kingdom Come. Our hearts are all a-flutter as we discover Dalglish is played by Wes Bentley, who injects some much-appreciated, dark-eyed sexiness into this feature. Hope is instantly smitten with the newcomer. Hey, maybe she's seen American Beauty too.

Oh thank crap! For a second there things were looking grim.

As Elena reconnects with her long-lost bastard husband, she inadvertently deposes his mistress -- a Portuguese brothel entrepreneur and songstress, Lucia. From here, things get a bit murky. Love triangles within love triangles develop: Lucia loves Dillon. Dillon loves Elena. Lucia finds comfort in the arms of Dalglish. Hope loves Dalglish. It's enough to give you a bit of a headache... Come to Kingdom Come! The city with two women for every man, where no one is ever secure in their relationship!

Though initially allies, disagreements over the railroad (and let's face it, women) cause Dillon and Dalglish to slowly become bitter enemies. In Dillon's eyes, the younger man is responsible for creating a rift in the community, and soon the town is rife with resentment and equally divided. Guns are loaded, lines are drawn. If there is still a lone, lingering prayer that love will conquer all...

...clearly, you've never read a Tom Hardy novel.

This film is magnificently shot, luring an elegant kind of grace out of the bleakness. Cold melancholy pervades every scene, but it's beautiful to watch. Every character comes across as slightly fractured. You long for Dillon's indignant passions to ease so that he can truly redeem himself. You long for Hope to become a bolder woman, that she might convince Dalglish of her love. You long for things to end well for anyone because you find yourself caring for them all despite their flaws. Watching them fight so needlessly when there's still a chance of redemption is the bitterest hurt of all. No, this is not a happy movie -- but it feels very human.

Are you having a great day? Feeling just a little too gosh-darned happy with your place in the universe? If you're in the market for a remedy to feeling serene, then this is the film for you. Tragic and chilly, it's a magnificent way to quietly break your own heart.

What just happened? I need a hug.

ROMANCE: Completely saturated with unrequited love and longing. OUCH. B-.
EYE-CANDY: Milla Jovovich gets naked! Yeeeeeeah! WES BENTLEY. B.
COSTUMES: Simply sophisticated. C+.

OVERALL RATING: A sublimely sorrowful tale. B-.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Mists of Avalon (2001) TV Miniseries

The Mists of Avalon (2001)

PLOT: Based on the bestseller by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon tells the story of the women behind King Arthur -- through the eyes of his half-sister Morgaine.

MY TAKE: Having never read the book by MZB, I wasn't sure what to expect from the miniseries. I'm left with the impression that I would have been a lot better off avoiding this adaptation and simply reading the book, though there is still plenty to entertain. The dvd boasts "Passion. Mysticism. Adventure." but when all was said and done I think they missed that mark. It fell a little closer to "Melo-drama. Mysticism. Headache."

Witness THREE LONG HOURS of Morgaine's life going down the shitter!

Admittedly, I really enjoy the basic premise of this story. Instead of focusing on young Arthur, the boy who would be King, we follow the struggled and triumphs (...?) of his half-sister Morgaine, otherwise known as Morgan Le Fay. Rather than being delegated to the role of malicious and (seemingly) purposeless villain -- as she has been in every incarnation of this tale -- here she is simply a good girl. She grows up with the power of second sight, a gift from the Goddess, raised in the company of her kind-hearted, mystic mother as well as her two aunts -- both of which possess great power themselves, though differ greatly on how that power should be used. Merlin-shmerlin, we've got plenty of magic without his bony old behind.

Morgaine is enamored of her little brother Arthur from the start, and is severely traumatized when they are forcibly separated. While he will no doubt continue his legendary path of rising up to become the peoples' King, we instead follow Morgaine as she is escorted to the mysterious land of Avalon, and trained there to become a priestess serving the Goddess.

But then there's that whole sleeping-with-her-brother thing...

Despite our pre-existing expectations, Morgaine does NOT seduce her brother the King in order to bear his child. I'm once again interested to see how delicately their situation was handled in the book, though they do a decent job in the miniseries. Painted and masked, Morgaine attends a sacred fertility ritual and is taken by a similarly masked man.

The whole affair comes across as strangely erotic and only minimally vomit-inducing, as it's clear that A) neither one of them has seen the other in many years, so even if they weren't masked they probably wouldn't recognize one another, and B) both of them seem to be REALLY enjoying themselves. Remember this scene...

...because it's the last time you'll see Morgaine genuinely enjoying anything.

Though the circumstances of that ill-fated moment allow the audience to retain a lasting respect for both Morgaine and Arthur -- THEY DIDN'T KNOOOOW, IT'S NOT THEIR FAULT! -- things pretty much tag alongside the original Arthurian legend from there. Arthur and Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere to you and me) rule the people as King and Queen, unable to conceive an heir. Lancelot shows up to throw a monkey wrench in the gears of progress by seducing the queen on the sly. Though again, the series attempts to salvage even THOSE two from the shadow of dreaded bad press by having them remain celibate and pining.

My biggest complaint with this miniseries is the godawful casting. While they got it half right and scored the EXCELLENT Anjelica Huston, Joan Allen and Julianna Margulies in three of the lead roles -- we ended up getting stuck with a truly terrible secondary cast. Edward Atterton is so forgettable as Arthur they could have used a cardboard stand-in. The poor man had zero chemistry from beginning to end, though he practically sparkles in comparison to the dreaded, shrew-like awfulness of Samantha Mathis' Gwenhwyfar. I've always enjoyed Mathis' work in other films, but here she is far and away unlikeable. Though perhaps both of those lackluster and uncomfortable performances are simply tainted by proximity to the miscast Michael Vartan.

Whaaaaaat? Me?

Now, I should say I feel marginally guilty for criticizing his performance because I know that I'm not an objective audience. For whatever reason, I've always found the actor to be a difficult buy -- too conventionally handsome, too metro. But regardless of my personal dislike of Vartan, he tries a little too hard to be the pining hero. He comes across more as bratty and entitled, which is why when the bratty and entitled Gwenhwyfar shows up and they cast long bratty, entitled looks at one another -- I stopped caring.

Though I will say that the Arthur/Gwenhwyfar/Lancelot drunken threesome scene was UNEXPECTED and shockingly AWESOME. Even moreso considering how painfully uninteresting all three characters were in this feature.

I would have been twice as interested had they just nixed Gwenny.

Bad things happen, bad choices are made, everyone grows older and more resentful of one another. Morgaine's life unravels further, if that's even possible after giving birth to YOUR BROTHER'S BABY. And from about the halfway point in the series it is nothing but a downhill slog.

The only saving grace comes in the form of Hans Matheson, who acts the SHIT out his role as Mordred. He's so instantly believable -- filled with conflicting, raging, torturous emotion -- that we really long for him NOT to be a villain. Just our luck the most riveting character in the picture would be the one that wants to destroy everything... But considering the trajectory of everyone's lives by the time Mordred takes the stage, perhaps it's not a bad thing. Hans gives the sagging production a much-needed shot of adrenaline.

Such a wonderful, evil boy.

I was intrigued going into this series, though that feeling waned swiftly as the hours dragged on. After all was said and done, I was left with a sense of mild disappointment in the production -- not because it wasn't well-made (it was), but because the series was a SERIOUS DOWNER. However, I was also left with the feeling feeling that I should read the book to compare the two. It is an interesting new spin on an old, familiar tale, and one worth a look. As far as network television productions go, The Mists of Avalon may feel a bit strained, but it's certainly worth a look -- a decent way to kill a rainy afternoon.

ROMANCE: There are glimmers of romance, but not a lot. C-.
EYE-CANDY: Unfortunately hot incest, anyone? ...Anyone? C+.
COSTUMES: Some very pretty gowns and interesting hair. C+.

OVERALL RATING: It strives for enchanting, but hits closer to depressing. C.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Basil (1998)

Basil (1998)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A lonely young aristocrat in turn-of the century England stuggles to meet the approval of his over-bearing, class-conscious father while trying to please the selfish woman he loves.

WHAT I THOUGHT: We meet young Basil as he is returning home from boarding school -- still a small child -- to his family's estate. It's clear from the start that he is an imaginative and sincere boy, who's bright-eyed, whimsical nature endears him to his mother and older brother. Yet, Basil's winning spirit is soon crushed under the heel of his demanding father, who views the carefree child as a total failure. As the years progress, Basil watches his loved ones disappear one by one, and he is slowly forced into the impossible mold his father has created for him. His one solace is Clara, a ward of his household who grows up much like his own sister. But save for that one tiny light in his life, Basil leads a dark, lonely and friendless existence.

Until the day of his accident...

After swimming in the ocean, Basil injures his leg. Unable to climb to safety, with the tide rising, he beings to panic -- until a well-meaning stranger appears just in time to save his life. After securing Basil, we discover the man's name is Mannion. Having never had any close friends in his life, Basil is unclear about how to process the instant connection he seems to share with Mannion. With trepidation, he puts himself on an emotional limb to befriend the mysterious man.

...Mannion could be just what Basil needs.

Now despite the strong homoerotic vibes these first few Basil/Mannion scenes radiate, unfortunately they're just friends. Though it's my opinion that a little sexual tension between the two of them would have led to a much more interesting film. Regardless, Jared Leto and (pre-Botox) Christian Slater have an undeniable kind of chemistry. This simply affirms my theory that you put any man in a room with Jared Leto long enough, and someone's going to turn gay. He's just THAT PRETTY.

Basil and Mannion hang around and become fast friends. Mannion humors his junior as Basil confesses to knowing nothing about women or sex -- again, don't get too excited. I know. I know. Yes it would have been the perfect launching point for a love affair. Alas...

Just drinking wine and talking about sex. DUDE STUFF.

When Basil pays a visit to the home where Mannion takes up residence, he meets by chance a young girl, Julia -- the daughter of the home owner. She's an upper-middle-class lady who's casual indifference to Basil captivates his imagination. He becomes immediately infatuated, persuading Mannion -- who has the in, living under the same roof -- to arrange instances for he and Julia to meet, perchance to become more intimately acquainted... Things move along just as Basil would have hoped, but Julia's bizarre behavior and inconsistent affection leave the man frustrated and confused. Every time she pulls away from him, the more he wants her.

But despite how Basil may try to avoid the suspicious eye of his father, there are plans in motion that he couldn't possibly devise: secret deeds and murderous pacts that could very well destroy his world.

An indifferent Claire Forlani is ONE LUCKY BITCH.

I enjoyed this movie for the most part, though it was at times a tad predictable. However the "big twist" in the movie was the one element I got entirely wrong, so I'm happy to report even the most scrutinizing of movie-watchers might still find themselves with a surprise or two. Jared Leto's mixture of innocence and arrogance wears a bit thin over the course of the movie, though he's so good-looking I'd forgive him almost anything. Claire Forlani annoys merely by being disinterested in the titular character. It's difficult to sympathize with anyone who would roll their eyes in irritation while making out with Jared Leto. What is WRONG with you, woman? The best and brightest thing here is easily Christian Slater, who surprised me as the complicated Mannion. He was still in his post-Bed of Roses and Broken Arrow era, where he was still quite dashing, before he got all... plastic surgery-y. Memorieeees~~

A familiar take on class differences and revenge fantasies, with some occasionally better-than-average performances, Basil is worth a passing glance. And if anyone wants to write some fanfiction, I won't be complaining.

ROMANCE: Mostly one-sided, of the pining variety. C.
EYE-CANDY: Christian Slater takes it off! Fuzzzzzzzy. B+.
COSTUMES: Some fashion-forward gowns! OOH. AND TOPHATS. B.

OVERALL RATING: A decent film with a few saving graces. Not bad. C+

The Age of Innocence (1993)

The Age of Innocence (1993)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: A young New York high-society lawyer falls hopelessly in love with a woman of scandal -- while he is engaged to her cousin.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Daniel Day-Lewis plays a man by the name of Newland Archer, a well-liked young lawyer who has recently become engaged to his demure and doe-eyed sweetheart, May (Winona Ryder). They both come from money and proper households, completely comfortable and expected. It isn't until May's cousin returns to New York that things get truly interesting. Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer) is estranged from her philandering husband and the subject of much malicious gossip. She is seemingly impervious to the whispers of her family and so-called friends, for them to be outright hostile would be unheard of. In polite society, people merely attempt to crush one another while keeping up the appearance of total innocence. Ladylike.

The irrepressible Countess Olenska.

Ellen desperately wants to divorce her horrible husband and be a free woman again, and at the urging of all parties involved Newland is forced to step in and ask her to knock it off. If she were to be a divorced woman, it would mean the ruin of her family's reputation. Even as Newland is going through the legal motions, you can feel his repulsion: every fiber of his moral being tells him that Ellen is in the right, that society has it backwards. While he struggles to maintain a balance between doing what the families expect of him and being a friend to Ellen, he discovers in her a kindred spirit. Their mutual admiration for one another soon blossoms into something far more complicated and passionate.

They fall helplessly in love with one another.

The movie was two and a half hours long, yet I was so wrapped up in it, it flew by. I had heard Martin Scorsese call this film his "most violent", and after watching it, I understand. Sure it doesn't have the spectacular body count of Taxi Driver, but what you have here is a minefield of emotions and collateral damage. Daniel Day-Lewis brings to life a whole spectrum of guilt and pain and regret and longing. Your heart bleeds for him. You long in agonizing desperation for him to somehow find a way to break free from May without destroying her, and be with Ellen -- somehow, some way -- ANY way, as long as they can be free to love as they choose. But for all of their pining and silent desires they are forced to exist in the few moments they are able to spend with one another alone.

It's fucking devastating.

That being said, the painful emotional unrest makes those few stolen moments all the sweeter. I've seen my fair share of bodice-rippers, and there's something to be said about how masterfully this movie was orchestrated and acted that simply undoing a pearl glove button and kissing a woman's wrist is the most erotic thing you have ever seen.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer have an undeniable chemistry together that goes beyond lust. Their characters connect on so many levels, it is an all-consuming mental affair. Despite her beauty, it's the Countess Olenska's fearless mind that draws Newland to her and keeps his affections faithfully burning for years.

Of course, being gorgeous doesn't hurt.

I was left feeling heartbroken and hopeful by the ambiguous ending. It is a poignant way to end a movie, and if you don't know how the story ends I won't spoil it for you here! Suffice to say that sometimes it's the things left unsaid that make a moment special. Or a lifelong epic romance.

But on the real, Winona, you are such a COCKBLOCKER.

ROMANCE: An elegantly orchestrated love affair. A.
EYE-CANDY: The few scenes of intimacy have extraordinary power. A.
COSTUMES: Oscar-winning. Some of the best I've seen. A+.

OVERALL RATING: A masterpiece of grace from the master of drama. A+.

Sally Hemings (2000)

Sally Hemings (2000)

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: The story of the extraordinary, controversial thirty-eight-year relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave mistress, Sally Hemings.

WHAT I THOUGHT: This miniseries was well worth watching and wonderfully entertaining. But lets not get too hasty. This is historical romance at best, and not a by-the-books historical account. In the end, Sally Hemings left no memoirs, so her life story has been pieced together as best they could... and then highly romanticized. I would consider this movie to be more of Thomas Jefferson FANFICTION than anything: all the Presidential touchstones are there, but what he was up to in his spare time is anyone's guess. Rather, it's our guess as the audience!

Bow chicka wow wow!

Sally grows up on Thomas' plantation, but aside from him knowing of her as a child, they don't formally meet until she is sent to Paris as a servant to Thomas' daughter. He is instantly smitten with the girl because she bears an uncanny resemblance to Jefferson's departed wife (Who, we learn later, is allegedly Sally's half-sister.) Whatever the color of her skin, Thomas could care less. She is gorgeous and spirited -- and he is mighty intrigued. Sally, though much younger than Thomas, is just as starry-eyed for the idealistic man, enamored with his talk of social change and the way he wears a neat pair of pantaloons. Powerless to resist their mutual attraction, they find themselves caught up in a passionate physical affair!

As the three hour series goes on, we follow the couple as they flee revolutionist France in order to... you know... not be beheaded. They return to Virginia where Thomas goes about renovating Monticello (his beloved plantation home) and Sally goes about having Thomas' illegitimate children.

How neat would it be to ALWAYS make love by candle light?

I don't want to say that the first half of the series was the only selling point, but most of the sexiness takes place during the initial hour and a half. Hotness, DEPPRESSORZ, hotness, DEPRESSORZ. It ebbs back and forth between the two, but can one really expect a series about slavery to be cheery? Even a love story? It's frustrating to watch Thomas love Sally and leave her with promises to enact change in Washington, only to have his efforts fall on deaf ears. Even more heartbreaking is watching Sally confront him about his waffling on the subject, citing his own past words against him when he once wrote about the black race as inferior. The last half hour is EXTREMELY SAD because everyone is old, Thomas is BROKE and no one is doing it. *cry!* But all things considered, the series as a whole is a wonderful watch.

The beauty more than makes up for the ugliness.

Carmen Ejogo is breathtaking. It's impossible to tear your eyes away from her, and easy to understand why a man would risk his family's reputation in order to be with her. She's a goddess to behold and a superb actress. She has the difficult role of playing a massive age range, from a young teen girl all the way into her 50's, but she does it well. However, I cannot say enough about the charisma of Sam Neill. The man is *SO* charming, *SO* sexy, *SO* passionate. He brings Thomas Jefferson to life in a way that I haven't seen before.

Take of that powdered wig and fuck me.

I recommend this mini-series for any fan of historical dramas. It doesn't read like a textbook, but that's what the History channel is for. If you're looking for some drama and steamy romance with a light aside to American history, this is for you. Bound by slavery, freed by love! I am such a Thomas Jefferson fangirl.

ROMANCE: A love story brought out of the shadows... and glitzed up! B.
EYE-CANDY: Thomas and Sally have a handful of edited love scenes. C+.
COSTUMES: From lovely to striking. All very pleasant. B+.

OVERALL RATING: Beautiful and sincere. B-.