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Thu January 24, 2002
So you're looking for a classy heroic alternate to Julia Roberts' ragged Erin Brockovich? May I submit Cate Blanchett as Charlotte Gray....
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
So you're looking for a classy heroic alternate to Julia Roberts' ragged Erin Brockovich? May I submit Cate Blanchett as Charlotte Gray, a volunteer for British Special Operations in WWII looking for her missing RAF pilot lover in occupied France. This story has more holes than the crumbling walls of a chateau, but it is just as beautiful and inscrutable.
"My Brilliant Career's" director, Gillian Armstrong, has given us a passionate heroine, uncompromising and determined, who, when asked at a psychological exam which word she favors: faith, hope or love -- responds with "hope" when we are sure it would be "love." Although the script doesn’t help us clearly understand what she is hoping to do in France, Blanchett and sumptuous cinematography help us through the uncertainty.
Worth experiencing is the clear depiction of the Vichy collaboration with the Nazis. If you wondered about Captain Renault’s ambivalence in "Casablanca," see "Charlotte Gray" for explanation.
When Michael Gambon, as tattered country farmer and father of Resistance fighter Billy Crudup, empties his pockets for the Occupation Police, the torture and disdain of all the French bubble in his eyes. When he comforts the trembling Blanchette after a bloody raid with "It's always a shock the first time," his warm underplaying is convincingly calming. With his recent role as aristocratic autocrat in "Gosford Park," Gambon is becoming almost as ubiquitous and chameleon-like as Blanchett.
Director Armstrong and actress Blanchett have created a believably independent heroine for the 20th century, an early exemplar of the feminist movement who remains luminously beautiful and outrageously charismatic despite the weight of the fledgling movement’s idealism. When she faces down a gunman after a harrowing chase, you'd wish they’d thought of her to lead the cast of "Pearl Harbor."
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of the Film Council of Greater Columbus.