Warning: There are spoilers in this review
Last year I wrote an article about tunnel vision in some modern feminist criticism. It was about a tendency of some critics to zero in on perceived weaknesses of female characters and stating that a work of art had reduced that woman to a certain weakness. There have been a few examples this year where women perhaps were reduced to a weakness. In ‘Focus,’ for example, Margot Robbie’s character really was reduced to being Will Smith’s love interest. She supposedly had a gift for a con, but never hatched any major con of her own. At the football game about half way through the film, she was the patsy who didn’t know about the con. Her biggest con wasn’t and major scheme to get money, but to pretend she was dating someone to make Will Smith jealous. There is an example of reducing a potentially very interesting character to a love interest. In ‘Jupiter Ascending’ Mila Kunis at least had a battle with Eddie Redmayne’s character, but in the end she saved earth and went about her life while swooning over Channing Tatum. There was no indication that she was going to try to save any other planet that might be harvested.
There is a fairly weak leading lady in ‘Crimson Peak’ as well. Mia Wasikowska play Edith. She is a young girl that the audience is supposed to believe is fairly intelligent. Perhaps she is a writer who is adead of her time. What happens? She falls for and marries a man she barely knows. Her father seems to realize that something isn’t right with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Sharpe’s rival for Edith’s affections (Charlie Hunnam) seems to realize it as well. Edith just seems to be too blinded by love to see what her male protectors see. Sure she eventually figures things out when she listens to records that tell her everything, but before that, even a crumbling house ans a husband who won’t consummate her marriage aren’t suspicious.Sure, it is a reflection on the mindset of people in the late Victoria era, at least the fiction of the early silent film love triangle melodrama. There did seem to be an issue with female rivalry in the film as well. Edith doesn’t appear to have female friends. The women her age or close to her age are nothing but romantic rivals. Early in the film, Edith has a rivalry with another socialite competing for the affections of Sir Thomas. Toward the end of the film, it is revealed that Sir Thomas and Lady Lucille have carried on an incestuous relationship since childhood. In both cases, the women are reduced to being jealous of Edith.
To the film’s credit, at least it does seem to be aware of the shortcomings throughout the script. Early on, Edith is trying to get a story published. There are ghosts in there which she states are a metaphor. A publisher insists that she put in a love story. Edith seems to be a much more interesting character early on in the film as she is determined to get her story published. Unfortunately, the momentum is lost once she falls for Sir Thomas. If a character becomes less interesting, it is a weak love story.
Crimson Peak, while visually well shot, has a weak story. It’s a story that reminds audience members of things they’ve seen several times, but can’t recall specific titles. Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain both give good performances as they always do, but it is among the weaker films they’ve both done. When I was leaving the theater, I head a man say that it was the worst movie he’s ever seen. While it’s far from one of the worst movies ever made or even of the year, it’s not great. Like the female characters in the film, the story itself could have been so much more. It was like the soda can shaken for hours that only emits a low hiss when it is finally opened. It may be worth a Netflix viewing out of curiosity some day.