'Madame Bovary' deserves Oscar notice for costumes and set design

Rating: ★★★★☆

Filmmaker Sophie Barthes brings a new adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's popular romantic novel "Madame Bovary" to the silver screen. Very adeptly, Barthes brings the audience back to nineteenth century France to tell the story of the young woman Madame Bovary.

Emma (Mia Wasikowska) is the daughter of a fairly well-to-do father, who lost Emma's mother to illness long ago. He gives Emma a convent education and marries her to a small village's doctor. He feels that he has given his daughter the best chance for happiness in life.

Emma, for the most part, is emotionally insecure and immature. And audiences today may have a hard time feeling a connection to a woman that in today's standards may seem dim witted. But Emma is from the 19th century, cloaked in a convent until marriage and not truly prepared for married life.

At first Emma seems truly happy with her circumstances, that is until the wretched Monsieur Lheureux (Rhys Ifans) uses Emma's immaturity against her by giving her credit to buy whatever she wants - and what she ends up wanting is far more than her husband Charles (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) can afford.

It's obvious to the viewer that Emma is using material possessions to make up for the lack of emotional fulfillment from her husband. The story becomes even clearer when Emma falls madly in love with The Marquis (Logan Marshall-Green), who uses Emma and throws her away when she becomes too needy.

In the end, it is Emma's own insecurities that lead to her downfall. But is Emma to really blame for her tragic end? Surely the time in which she lived contributed to Emma's thirst for love, or does it?

I liked "Madame Bovary" very much, but I feel it has one flaw that will keep it from truly depicting the range of emotion that Emma is going through - and that is when she falls in love with the Marquis, it is not expressed in a grand way. Just by spending a little more time with Emma and her thoughts, hopes and dreams with the Marquis, it would contrast her life with her husband and give the viewers more understanding of her anguish.

Mia Wasikowska gives more than a fine performance as Emma. She is not getting the attention she deserves as she delivers one great performance after another. Henry Lloyd-Hughes does a good job portraying the unremarkable Charles. And Rhys Ifans steals the show as the wicked and evil provider of all the gowns and the costly decorative supplies for the Bovary home.

Most spectacular in "Madame Bovary" is the work provided by the art departments. This film should be nominated for Academy Awards for Best Production Design and Best Costumes. Production design by Benoît Barouh brings the viewers directly back to the late 19th century in France. It is as if he used a time machine to provide this film with such details such as the maids cleaning laundry in the river and other woman carrying wood on the their backs - and the complete change in the Bovary home. It's all just too beautiful for words.

To match the grandeur of the production design, costume designers Christian Gasc and Valérie Ranchoux show a range of costumes from the men's suits to the wedding dress, exquisite gowns worn by Emma and the horrible and binding corsets. The attention to detail is obvious even on the screen. Bravo!

And the music scored by Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine is perfectly in tune with the period and helps to add emotionally tone to Emma's changing moods and life events. The music may be too subtle to garner attention at award season, but it would have my vote as one of the best scores of the year.

Obviously, "Madame Bovary," is geared to the lover of period films. Although a bit flawed in the plot, I enjoyed the film and would enjoy adding the DVD to my collection of films.

"Madame Bovary" is rated R for some sexuality/nudity and has a run-time of 118 minutes.


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