Effie Gray (film)
Film poster, featuring Fanning with Millais' painting Ophelia behind her.
|Directed by||Richard Laxton|
|Produced by||Andreas Roald
|Written by||Emma Thompson|
|Music by||Paul Cantelon|
|Edited by||Kate Williams|
|Distributed by||Metrodome Distribution|
Its subject is the love triangle involving Victorian art critic John Ruskin (played by Greg Wise) his wife Euphemia "Effie" Gray (Dakota Fanning) and Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge). Emma Thompson also appears in the film as Elizabeth Eastlake.
The film's initial release was delayed by lawsuits alleging that the script, written by Emma Thompson, was plagiarised from earlier dramatisations of the same story. The cases were won by Thompson.
In a pre-credit sequence Effie Gray is seen walking through a garden speaking about a fairy story in which a girl married a man with wicked parents. After the credits, the marriage of Effie to John Ruskin in Perth, Scotland is seen. The couple travel to London to stay with his parents. Effie soon begins to feel isolated, especially as she is repeatedly belittled by John's mother. Her distress is compounded by the fact that her husband shows no interest in consummating the marriage and refuses to discuss the subject.
At the Royal Academy of Arts, John and Effie attend a dinner at which there is heated debate about the new Pre-Raphaelite movement in art, which John supports. John convinces Sir Charles Eastlake, the president of the academy, to allow the young artists to exhibit their pictures. Effie attracts the attention of Sir Charles' wife, Elizabeth. When the Eastlakes visit the Ruskins, Elizabeth sees how distressed Effie is in the repressive atmosphere of the Ruskin family.
Effie hopes that matters will improve when they travel to Venice, where John will be researching his new book The Stones of Venice. But when they get there, John busies himself studying the many historic monuments of the city, leaving Effie in the company of Rafael, a young Italian. Effie enjoys the city life, but is distressed when Rafael nearly rapes her. Her husband seems oblivious to the situation.
Effie dreads returning to the Ruskin family. Back at their house she suffers from a string of nervous ailments. Her doctor advises fresh air and more attention from her husband. John says they intend to travel to Scotland where Everett Millais, one of the Pre-Raphaelites, will paint his portrait. In Scotland, Everett befriends Effie, and becomes increasingly disturbed by John's dismissive attitude to his wife. He is deeply embarrassed when John leaves the two of them alone together for several nights when he visits Edinburgh. Effie and Everett fall in love. When John returns he says Effie must come back with him to London. Everett convinces her to take someone she trusts with her and to explore the options for divorce. Effie brings her sister Sophy, claiming that Sophy wants to see the capital.
In London, Effie visits Elizabeth Eastlake. She tells her she is still a virgin and that John has told her he was disgusted by her body on their wedding night. Elizabeth advises her to seek legal advice. Effie is examined by a doctor, who confirms her virginity. Her lawyer tells her the marriage can be annulled. Effie leaves for Scotland, supposedly to accompany her sister, but really to leave John forever. Before she leaves London, she visits Everett, but only communicates with him via her sister. Everett says he will wait for her. Ruskin's family is horrified when Effie's lawyer calls round with a notification of annulment proceedings on the grounds of John's impotence. As she travels back north, Effie smiles.
- Dakota Fanning as Euphemia "Effie" Gray
- Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof as Young Effie
- Emma Thompson as Lady Eastlake
- Greg Wise as John Ruskin
- Tom Sturridge as John Everett Millais
- Robbie Coltrane as Doctor
- Julie Walters as Margaret Cox Ruskin
- Claudia Cardinale as Viscountess
- David Suchet as John James Ruskin
- Derek Jacobi as Travers Twiss
- James Fox as Sir Charles Eastlake
- Russell Tovey as George
- Riccardo Scamarcio as Raffaele
- Polly Dartford as Sophy Gray
Release of the film, originally titled Effie, was delayed by a series of court actions. Eve Pomerance, author of two scripts on the same subject as Thompson's screenplay, brought the first case. One of the scripts had been produced as a stage play. The judge ruled in December 2012 that Thompson's script was not in breach of copyright and could be released. Another copyright dispute arose, with playwright Gregory Murphy, author of the play The Countess which had been positively received, and ran Off-Broadway for 634 performances during the 1999/00 season. Murphy also penned an unproduced screenplay on the same topic. The matter was decided in Emma Thompson's favour in March 2013. The judge’s ruling was based on a second, revised screenplay that the court allowed Emma Thompson to submit in the middle of the case, which Murphy called "unprecedented." Murphy appealed the ruling, but the Second Circuit rejected Murphy's appeal. The District Court then ordered Murphy to reimburse Effie Film, LLC $500,000 for its legal fees. Murphy filed an appeal, but in debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars as the result of the initial lawsuit instigated by Effie Film, petitioned the Court for pro bono counsel. Lawyers from the law firm of Winston & Strawn representing Effie Film successfully blocked Murphy’s petition for pro bono counsel, and filed a motion that Murphy be required to put up a bond of $125,000 before his case could be heard on appeal. In the year-long court battle that ensued, Murphy, representing himself, fought both the $500,000 fee award and the $125,000 bond motion. The case was eventually moved to the United States Court of Appeals. On 16 October 2015 the three-judge panel for the Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in Murphy’s favor, dismissing Winston & Strawn’s motion for a bond requirement and ruling that the District Court had "abused its discretion" in awarding Effie Film its $500,000 in legal fees, adding that the Court of Appeals had never characterized Murphy’s original claims of infringement as "frivolous" or "objectively unreasonable" as Winston & Strawn contended. The Court of Appeals also ordered Effie Film, LLC to pay Murphy $603.80 for his court costs.
The release date was put back to October 2013, but the film was withdrawn from the Mill Valley Film Festival in California at which it was to be premiered under the title Effie Gray. In December 2013, Thompson said the film’s time had "probably passed" and was unlikely to be released. The film was finally released in October 2014. Thompson did not attend its London premiere, nor did she promote the film.
Effie Gray has received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 41%, based on 70 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Effie Gray benefits from its strong cast, elevating a period drama that doesn't strike quite as many narrative sparks as it could." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 24 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Mark Kermode said that the film "intelligently dramatises the prison-like nature of Effie’s status while struggling to engage us in what is essentially a non-relationship...we have a handsome but rather inert portrait of a suffocating social milieu in which it is left to Thompson herself to inject vibrant relief as the independently minded Lady Eastlake." Tim Robey in The Telegraph said that "There are clever and sensitive touches right through, and a moving ending. But Fanning seems wholly uncomfortable, and not always intentionally. She's meant to be playing a trapped Pre-Raphaelite muse, frequently ill and/or sedated, but moons her way through the film seeming mostly dazed and confused."
David Sexton, in contrast, praised Fanning's performance as "remarkably good", but objected to the caricatured portrait of Ruskin and what he called the "Everyday Feminism" of the portrayal of Effie as a victim. Stephen Dalton in The Hollywood Reporter was unflattering, calling the film "an exquisitely dreary slice of middlebrow armchair theater which adds little new to a much-filmed story. Despite a lurid plot involving sex scandal, family dysfunction and proto-feminist revolt, the end result is depressingly conventional and deadeningly tasteful...yet another surface-level rehash of Victorian costume-drama clichés." However, Fanning's "wounded, emotionally conflicted performance" was praised.
- "EFFIE GRAY (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 1 October 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Effie Film, LLC v. Eve Pomerance, No. 11-CIV-7087 (JPO) (S.D.N.Y. 18 Dec. 2012) (248 KB PDF, accessed 17 January 2013)
- Murphy, Gregory 23 April 2011 (23 April 2011). "The day I sat in Emma Thompson's kitchen and accused her of stealing my movie". Daily Mail. London.
- Eden, Richard (23 December 2012). "Emma Thompson is kept waiting by John Ruskin film". The Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 14 January 2013.
- Eden, Richard (24 March 2013). "Emma Thompson wins John Ruskin legal battle". The Telegraph. London: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- Template:Cite court document
- Eden, Richard 24 March 2013. "Emma Thompson wins John Ruskin legal battle". The Telegraph.
- Walker, Tim (2 September 2013). "John Ruskin legal battle goes on for Emma Thompson". The Telegraph. London.
- Emma Thompson Didn't Steal 'Effie' Script, 2nd Circ. Says, Law360, 7 May 2014
- "Effie Film, LLCC v. Murphy, 14-3367-cv 15-1573 2nd Cir. 2015)".
- Griffiths, Charlotte 24 October 2015. "GIRL ABOUT TOWN: Emma’s battle over Effie ends with a £300k bill". Daily Mail.
- Emma Thompson's film about Effie Gray is withdrawn from film festival, Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2013
- Synnot, Siobhan 3 December 2013. "Emma Thompson on her role in Saving Mr Banks". The Scotsman.
- Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times Saturday Review, 23 August 2014
- Walker, Tim 7 October 2014. "Emma Thompson declines to plug her new film Effie Gray". The Telegraph.
- Kermode, Mark, "Effie Gray review – a handsome but inert portrait", The Observer, Sunday 12 October 2014.
- Robey, Tim, "Effie Gray, review: 'a damp portrait'", The Telegraph, 9 October 2014.
- Sexton, David, "Effie Gray - film review: 'Dakota Fanning is remarkably good but Emma Thompson’s script makes John Ruskin out to be a sexist villain", London Evening Standard, 10 October 2014.
- Dalton, Stephen, "Effie Gray", The Hollywood Reporter, 10 October 2014.