Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: Angel

I once received a particularly hurtful review when a story submission of mine was rejected for publication. I don’t remember the review’s exact words, but it was something like “I hate this sort of shallow and useless thing,” (only less kind). I never really understood why that person thought it would be beneficial to share something like that with me, but I’m sharing it with you because I finally understand what that reviewer felt like.
Movie cover from imdb
Because of Angel.
It is a 2007 film based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor. Its promotional poster is very appealing, and the teaser for it on Netflix reads: “Romola Garai plays Angel Deverell, a grocer’s daughter who writes her way to success as a romance novelist and then falls for a libertine nobleman.”
I was in the mood for a romantic movie last night, and Netflix says, “Dramas, Romantic Movies,” so I thought I’d try it out. I was expecting a young girl working very hard on something wonderful while her mother sells cabbages, a girl waiting on pins and needles for a response from a publisher, seeing her anguish when she received rejection letters, and her joy when finally receiving an acceptance letter. I expected that she would turn down the first publisher who offered to make her work available to the public, but I thought it would be because they would try to take advantage of her financially.
I expected her to be a humble girl who works hard and lives for her craft, and though she writes about love, she doesn’t expect to fall in love herself until she meets a young nobleman at a party. And then, as the movie poster suggests, they kiss in the rain (or possibly snow).
My husband left the couch early on in the movie and went to read a book, but he came back for the last ten minutes. “Why did you even watch this?” he asked me. “I don’t know!” I responded. “I just kept expecting it to be... good!”
Instead of being modest, Angel was rude and stuck up. In one scene, she flounced up the stairs after boldly telling her mother and visiting aunt to “be quiet so I can concentrate on my writing!” She jumped at the first offer to publish her book, but walked out of the publisher’s office when he told her she’d have to tone down one scene and change another. He gave in and published it anyway, even though you don’t need a corkscrew to open a bottle of champagne. Angel’s rise to fame was immediate; everyone loved her books. She finally did meet her “libertine nobleman,” and fell in love with him at first sight even though he was rude to her at their first meeting. After hiring him to paint a portrait of her, he begins to like her too.
I paused the movie during the kiss in the rain, at a party where Angel unveils the painting, and asks her nobleman to marry her. “I’ll pay all your debts,” she tells him, “Come live with me at Paradise House. Marry me! I love you!” It was only about a third of the way through the two hour movie. I thought, “what else is there to tell?”
A better descriptor for the movie would have been, “Romola Garai plays Angel Deverell, a grocer’s daughter who writes her way to success as a romance novelist and then when things stop going her way, she goes crazy and dies.”
Angel had everything: success, the man she loved, and the home she’d always dreamed of. When things happened that she didn’t like, she rewrote them and made her life fiction because it was more appealing to her. Her mother died, and she transformed her into a famous concert pianist, instead of telling a reporter that she ran a grocery. Her husband killed himself after coming home wounded from the horrors of the first World War, but the man interested in his work was told that he died of a heart attack.
The final blow for Angel came when she found a letter from her husband’s mistress and learned that all the money she had given him for his supposed gambling debts had been to keep her and the illegitimate child she’d had. Angel had never told her husband about the miscarriage she had while he was in the trenches, so she was full of anguish and jealousy. She returned the letter to her husband’s mistress, and as she was leaving, happened to see the little boy who could have been hers. She reached out to him, but he was frightened of her rather wild appearance and ran away.
I realize that life doesn’t end during the scene where you kiss in the rain, and that if you rise high, you have the potential to fall even further. But if I’m going to watch a romantic movie, I’d rather have mostly the good things and not the bad. I’d rather have a ‘happily ever after’ than a descent into madness accompanied by twenty cats.
There is a quote on Elizabeth Taylor’s wikipedia page that I don’t quite understand. “It is not possible to have perfection in life, but it is possible to have perfection in a novel.” I agree with this, but the part I can’t grasp is why, if she believed this, she would write such a horrid end for her character. Suffering is a part of life, and it can make a person grow, but it didn’t make Angel more humble or more giving. All it did was to make her more selfish, and to drive her insane.
I hate this kind of thing. I personally don’t find it entertaining. There are some people who love romantic tragedy, but I prefer romantic comedy. I knew before I started watching that this movie wouldn’t be a romantic comedy, but I didn’t expect it to be so tragic.
I’ve learned my lesson. Next time, before I watch something new on Netflix, I will at least pay attention to how other users have rated it (2 out of 5 stars on Netflix, imdb has 5.9 out of 10). And when I submit a story to a literary magazine, I won’t expect everyone to love it as much as I do.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, literary magazines. They're so subjective. They're all about the whims and tastes of one, maybe two people. I've seen calls for submissions that say they want stories about love, but no stories that mention spooning (the editor's arbitrary pet peeve), and I've read entire issues of lit mags where every story had a twist, even though some of the twists were stupid.

    You just have to find the lit mag that fits your story, and vice versa.