Jay Dickson | Portland, OR | 09/11/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Daphne du Maurier provided nothing if not great stories, both in her novels (which continue to be underappreciated for their intelligence and subtleties, particularly in the United States) and in her tumultuous life. The adored second child of the great man of the theatre Gerald du Maurier, Daphne internalized her father's homophobia and spent most of her life tormented by her yearnings for women and by her sense of herself as a "boy in a box"; though married to "Tommy" browning with whom she raised three adored children at the great Cornish house she rented for much of her life, Menabilly, she was distracted by the parts of herself that did not fit so neatly into that life.
This beautifully produced BBC drama covers Du Maurier's life from after the Second World War, when her husband returned home from service, to the early 1950s, and involves three of the major relationships of her life: her relationship with her husband (at this point strained and devoid of physical passion); her unrequired love for her friend Ellen Doubleday, the socialite wife of her American publisher; and her most sexually satisfying relationship with the great actress Gertrude Lawrence. The sets and the lighting for this sumptuously mounted production are first-rate, as is the actress playing Du Maurier, Geraldine Somerville, who brings much nuance and intelligence to the part. But Somerville is let down here both by the screenplay and by her co-stars. The story here emphasizes the somewhat crankier parts of Du Maurier, including her sense of being constantly besieged by her fans (which here makes her seem a bit of an ingrate) and her particular frustration at only being known for writing REBECCA. But the screenwriters and producers only have her friends and Daphne herself ever mention REBECCA among all of her novels she had written up to this point (they apparently didn't trust their audience would remember even FRENCHMAN'S CREEK or JAMAICA INN), and since Daphne seems to be constantly comparing people and events in her life to those in REBECCA she seems something of a hypocrite rather than just at odds with herself (as the real Du Maurier was). Worse, Elizabeth McGovern and Janet McTeer seem quite miscast as Du Maurier's two new loves, Ellen Doubleday and Gertrude Lawrence (respectively). McGovern seems much too frivolous and ditsy to play Doubleday, given that Du Maurier here sees her friend as a dazzling and glamorous figure comparable to Rebecca de Winter herself; and while McTeer can bring off the coarser aspects of Lawrence well enough, and even her frustrated disappointments in Du Maurier, she fails to make us see why this woman would have been seen as the most charismatic and sophisticated woman in the British theatre in her day. You feel as if the whole undertaking doesn't quite live up to what it could have been, or capture your attention and your sympathies in the way Du Maurier's story deserves."
A Different Look
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 01/05/2009
(1 out of 5 stars)
A Different Look
Daphne duMaurier was quite a woman as well as a wonderful writer. Her opening line of "Rebecca", "Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay again" is one of the most famous lines in literature. Yet there is a lot about her that many of get to learn about in the BBC film, "Daphne". It is just too bad that such a fascinating woman did not have a first class film made about her.
The movie takes place in the years between "Rebecca" and "The Birds" and deals with her relationship with her husband, Frederick "Boy" Browning and Daphne's infatuations with the wife of American publishing tycoon, Nelson Doubleday (Ellen) and the actress Gertrude Lawrence.
I understand that this made for television movie was based on Margaret Foster's authorized biography of the author and this meant that duMaurier's bisexuality would not be glossed over. Actually, we were informed that this is what would be the basis of the movie. What we got instead was a disappointment. The screenplay is so messed up that it is amazing that the film was ever made. It is choppy and does not succeed in let us see what inner turmoil Daphne was going through. Beginning in 1952, we see Daphne standing in the rain outside of the estate she shared with her husband and children. She is waiting for the mail and she receives a letter which seems to pain her. Inside the house, her husband is seen looking at private photos of his wife in bed with another woman. His expression is one of near nonchalance.
This is the first of many such ridiculous scenes. As the film continues, Daphne writes a letter whose contents will be shared via voiceover for the length of the film. We learn that several years earlier, Daphne was sued for plagiarism and went to the trial in the United States and there meets Ellen Doubleday. Doubleday was a heterosexual woman but the movie shows her as smitten with Daphne but the affair never came to fruition.
After winning her court case, Daphne meets Noel Coward at a party hosted by the Doubledays and he introduces her to Gertrude Lawrence and this is perhaps the only scene in the movie that is not tedious and boring. Daphne maintains her crush on Ms. Doubleday while she and Lawrence begin some type of relationship. And from there things go from bad to very bad to failure.
I rarely give a totally bad review to anything but I find myself doing so here. Save your money and time and read "Rebecca. At least it is a classic.
Jamakaya | Milwaukee, WI | 04/02/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A bit over the top with some surprisingly cheap production values given that it's from the BBC. Daphne, a lesbian who hates what she calls "the 'L' people," comes off as a real pill. But nothing with actress Janet McTeer, here playing the wise and witty Gertrude Lawrence, is ever without some value!"