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Charlotte Gray

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Charlotte Gray
from Film Forum, 01/17/02

Charlotte Gray is based on a novel by Sebastian Faulks about a Scottish woman who joins the French Resistance in London during World War II, hoping to rescue her boyfriend, a pilot shot down in combat. Cate Blanchett appears here in her seventh film this year, playing the lead. She's reportedly fantastic. The movie, however, is not.

Jackie Durham (Movieguide) applauds the film: "Charlotte Gray resonates with post-9/11 audiences in a way that previous movies set in World War II could not. Cate Blanchett brings the same strength, conviction, and vulnerability to Charlotte that enabled her to create her Best Actress role (Golden Globe) in Elizabeth. Armstrong maintains an exquisite balance between the grand scope of a world war and an intense focus on the human elements in the story—the effects of war on ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Sustaining principles of regard for life, responsibility and concern for others and a high sense of purpose resonate with these characters, even when obscured by pettiness and seeming indifference."

But according to the U.S. Catholic Conference, "Director Gillian Armstrong somehow turns spying into banal work, while stripping the film of any sense of urgency, suspense or passion and ending on a pointlessly melodramatic note."

John Adair (Preview) notes "a message of hope" and that the film "illustrates the importance of trust in any relationship, a fact that is only heightened in wartime." But foul language "leaves Charlotte Gray short of Preview's recommendation."

Mainstream critic MaryAnn Johanson (The Flick Filosopher) raves about it: "Old-fashioned in the best sense—emotional without being stickily sentimental, giving more than just a passing nod to character—this is a wonderful, wonderful film … a tremendously moving film about the horrible things people do to one another in wartime and small kindnesses amid the horror."

Roger Ebert gets distracted praising Blanchett's work: "Name me an actress who has played a greater variety of roles in four years, and I'll show you Meryl Streep. Were you counting Blanchett's accents? British, Elizabethan English, Edwardian English, Scots, Australian, French, American Southern, Midwestern, New England, New Joisey. And she has the kind of perfect profile they used to use in the 'Can You Draw This Girl?' ads. She can bring as much class to a character as Katharine Hepburn." But when it comes to the movie, he says the talented cast is "performing life support on a hopeless screenplay. This is a movie that looks great, is well-acted, and tells a story that you can't believe for a moment."