Commentary
5:00 am
Thu January 30, 2014

'The Invisible Woman' Is Incomplete and Unpersuasive

Ralph Fiennes leaves out some important details in 'The Invisible Woman'
Credit rottentomatoes.com

The title The Invisible Woman suggests some kind of comic book sci-fi thing, but The Invisible Woman is actually the supposedly true story of the aging novelist Charles Dickens and an 18-year-old talentless actress for whom he risked his reputation, profession, social standing, home and family. But it never persuades us that it is really telling the story.

Too many of what must have been key scenes are simply left out. For just one example, when Dickens decided to leave home and family and live with this veritable child, if indeed there was any such moment of conscious decision, there must have been some high drama. This was Victorian England, and while artists and even respectable men were allowed more various lifestyles than we like to think, there were certainly limits. (Notice in the movie how people cease to react to Dickens' presence after the truth comes out.)

Felicity Jones is the girlfriend and Kristin Scott Thomas is her mother, who was apparently pretty realistic as to the social possibilities of her daughter, but who had warned her about men like that. There must have been some encounters between them, some adjustments of expectations and relationship, but we don't see those, either.

We are also left in the dark as to whether Dickens' professional life was affected at all. Such important material is never developed.

There is a train wreck that is pretty effectively handled, but is so almost arbitrarily inserted and then so totally dropped that one wonders why it was bothered with at all.

There is a fair amount of literary talk, but the lively, energetic people Dickens wrote about are not even suggested by the people we see.

The performers can't be blamed-- the screenplay never gives them a chance. The Invisible Woman is what Charles Dickens seldom is: flat.