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The Invisible Woman: AFI Fest’s Stinkeroo

What the Dickens is wrong with this movie?! Actor/director Ralph Fiennes’ The Invisible Woman is best, well, unseen. It was the only film I saw at AFI Fest this year that I hated and was sorry that I squandered my time by watching it. Which is a pity because the film, based on a true story adapted from Claire Tomalin’s book, has many of the elements for a good drama and could have been an insightful meditation on the nature of celebrity.


Charles Dickens (Fiennes) is a fabulously successful author, beloved by British readers. Rich and famous he has everything -- except for true love. Somehow, he’s married to an obese dullard who is as mentally unattractive as she is physically. Enter the actress Nelly Ternan, played by a 30-year-old Felicity Jones, who is far too old to convincingly portray a teen ager, and later in the film, too young to depict the older Nelly. She is the daughter of Frances Ternan, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, Fiennes’ co-star in 1996’s The English Patient, and just about the only watchable thing about this wretched flick.

The Invisible Woman is unbearably boring, with mediocre acting creakily directed by Fiennes. Is this flop overly long because, like Dickens, Fiennes got paid by the frame? The insipid, uninspired, dull direction is hard to fathom, as Fiennes’ directorial debut, a striking modern dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s Corialanus which premiered at 2011’s AFI Fest, was superb. To make matters worse, Fiennes was late for Invisible’s screening at the Egyptian, keeping hundreds of theatergoers cooling their heels. When he finally arrived Fiennes blamed his (re)tardiness on the “traffic” -- OMG, what, traffic around rush hour in L.A.? Who’dathunkit, Ralph? But Dr. Freud says there’s “no such thing as errors,” and the beginning of Invisible actually starts with two different characters arriving late, with the second instance including an admission that the transgressor likes to be late in order to annoy Dickens.

Listen Ralph, when I go to meet my maker in that cinema in the sky, I’m going to ask St. Peter at the pearly gates if he can subtract some time from your life span and give me back another two and half hours to live. The Invisible Woman is rated “MM”: For “Must Miss.” From now on, this reviewer prefers his Invisible Woman to be Jessica Alba in the Fantastic Four flicks.

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ed rampell

Ed Rampell

The new book co-authored by L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell, “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”, published by Honolulu’s Mutual Publishing, drops Nov. 25.