That simple declarative kept coming back to me throughout “Carrington,” a 1995 biopic written and directed by Christopher Hampton. Another line that kept skipping around upstairs was a line from 6ths song, “You know you’re the star of my life story,” but we’ll get to that later.
“Carrington” is Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson), a promising young British painter. “Her” story begins during World War I, and our painter is bit of a cold fish; she’s been dating her fianc, Mark (Rufus Sewell) for four years and has refused to have sex with him, and he’s reaching his breaking point and begins enlisting their mutual friends to talk her into going to bed with him.
Say it with me folks, ew (and seriously loser, fight your own battles). Can’t say I blame her for rejecting him (in fact, this whole early part should be a primer for men on how NOT to get your lady to have sex with you). But one of those mutual friends turns out to be Lytton Strachey (Jonathan Pryce), a gay man that Carrington falls in love with. In an interesting reversal, Lytton falls for her too, although he won’t have sex with her.
And there’s the movie; since she can’t be with the one she wants, she sleeps with every other male who falls for her. Sure, it’s sad, but that’s all we see of this woman’s life, and that’s even sadder. And makes for a horrible movie.
Seriously, I walked away from this film (aside from praying for it to end) knowing that Carrington 1) occasionally painted a picture, usually portraits and 2) really liked sex. There has to be more to the story, and it’s downright shameful that Hampton didn’t think to flesh her out more. Her, the main character, the one the movie’s named after; no deep characterization permitted.
But as I said up top, Carrington isn’t really the star here, her pseudo-husband Lytton is the real story here; he’s the essential part of her life, her Sine qua non (“Battlestar Galactica” taught me Latin! Take that Sci-fi snobs.), and when he goes, so does she. But her death is as meaningless as the rest of this movie. Sure, it’s sad, but I don’t care about her or her death. And that’s even sadder.
Written and directed by Christopher Hampton
Starring: Emma Thompson (Carrington)
Jonathan Pryce (Lytton Strachey)