Meow, World! BEWARE of my first post, a review of Crimson Peak

Creating this blog has been on my to-do list for months. As a movie nerd, seeing Crimson Peak has inspired me into action, if nothing else to share my take on this delightful film.

Visually striking from the instant the Universal introduction hits the screen, Crimson Peak submerges its viewers in a sea of dynamic hues and spectacular images. In Guillermo del Toro’s dark imaginative fairy tale, you find yourself immersed within a vibrant world of color, passion, pain, and love. Its beauty defies the senses in this Gothic romance that, for me, felt reminiscent of both Jane Eyre and Flowers in the Attic.

Love or hate the story, you cannot deny the eye candy, and I don’t just mean the actors. Each detail del Toro presents, from the sweeping landscapes and elaborate buildings to the spinning camera work, appears to be meticulously crafted to solicit profound emotions. An amazing palette of color and atmosphere construct a hauntingly beautiful background for the narrative. What a shame that the execution will be lost on the color blind, a point not missed by the visionary director. An entire world has been created in which you can feel the warmth and cold of the climates along with the heat and chill from the characters. Above all, the cinematography and costumes stand out as being particularly Oscar worthy, as they are absolutely stunning.

I cannot stress enough how gorgeous and moving this film is.

Before covering the three main actors, I must mention two other notable performances. Though his role is supportive, Jim Beaver plays a strong character, both likeable and respected. When on screen, he conveyed his distinct presence while aiding the main characters, rather than drawing focus from them. Doug Jones, not unlike Andy Serkis, deserves his own category with the academy for his specific and unique talents. A veteran to the del Toro portfolio, he contributed much to the cinematic experience with only his fluid movements for expression. While managing to spook, he was not the scariest creature in this film, nor nearly as terrifying as the pale man.

In case you need inspiration for your next nightmare.

As a writer, I can understand how easily Edith could be manipulated through the praise of her manuscript. We want so much to believe our work has merit, even when we know it needs improvement. Mia Wasikowska’s wide-eyed, hopeful portrayal of the unnaturally independent Edith Cushing initially pushes the boundaries of the archetypal heroine. Although she does temporarily fall victim to the common mistakes emblematic of a damsel in distress, her inner strength eventually takes control. Wasikowska is radiant in this role, her youth and grace amplified by her lovely wardrobe, most notably during her dance scene with her handsome suitor.

It feels cliche to say Tom Hiddleston performed superbly as Sir Thomas Sharpe. If he continues to meet such high expectations on screen, how will viewers recognize when he pushes himself?  As harsh as it sounds, it almost seems for the best that Cumberbatch, a fantastic actor in his own right, dropped out to be replaced with the mesmerizing Hiddleston. While surely Cumberbatch could play the role well, his physical appeal is more of an acquired taste, while Hiddleston is everyone’s type. (See Exhibit A, Exhibit B, and Exhibit C) No stretch of the imagination is required to understand why Edith would run off with this man or stay with him under such dismal conditions. He was so credible in his portrayal, one of my movie mates confided she would never trust anything the man said in real life as he is just too good at playing convincing liars. He was the perfect choice for Thomas, drawing you in with his enchanting charms and mysterious history, then holding you captive with nothing more than a look. The mere flick of an eyebrow expressed a range of emotions without his speaking a word. Rather than praise the actor for his numerous talents, I give credit to the director for casting the part so well.

Most impressive was Jessica Chastain’s calm as a bomb performance as Lucille Sharpe. She played this character with a chilling truthfulness more apparent upon the second viewing. Ornamented in the finest gowns (an unquestionably magnificent wardrobe), Chastain commands the audience’s attention and respect from the moment of her introduction. Of the three mains, Lucille’s motivations for the path she takes, and her past actions for that matter, are clearest to me.

Hell, I might make her choices for this dress, let alone the true incentives her character harbors.

This is by far my favorite performance from Jessica Chastain, proving her range beyond a doubt. With the toughest role, she plays the character possessing the greatest strength and the most vulnerability, which makes more sense when you consider the period. And did I mention her gowns are to die for? My hope is that more directors will start utilizing her amazing spectrum of talent, especially after watching the last twenty minutes of this film.

As for the feature itself, for all its hype, it was neither as scary as I’d been led to believe, nor as kinky as I expected. (or hoped, to be candid) And yet I still loved it. Romantic, yet not wholesome, and much more humorous than anticipated. I’ve seen it three times and would easily go again if my schedule allowed. I’d love to comment further on topics like the tragedy of the machine’s fate with relation to the story, how lost one of the main characters remained at the end (however well intentioned), the various clever touches (the breed of dog, the color themes in wardrobe, residence and supernatural representations), and, of course, the classic del Toro bug fetish. Unfortunately, delving into those specifics would ruin the film for those who’ve yet to see it, certainly a murderable offense.

I highly recommend watching this movie now while it remains in the theatres. If you’re adventurous, dress in period costume like I did. You will likely see that the cinema employees fall right in line, catering to the desires of the noble attendees, enhancing your movie experience.

If you’ve seen it and would like to discuss, send me a note or leave a comment.

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