It’s no coincidence that Dakota Fanning’s Euphemia (nicknamed “Effie”) looks like she stepped out of a pre-Raphaelite painting. Within the first few minutes of Effie Gray, she lives out her storybook fantasy and becomes the teenage bride of John Ruskin (Greg Wise), the 19th-century art critic who championed the upstart painters of the pre-Raphaelite movement. (He also praised J.M.W. Turner, earning the critic a small, lisping appearance in Mr. Turner.) John is serious, cultured, talented, and passionate in his love of art. A life with him will sweep Effie out of rural Scotland and into the center of London’s cultural elite—or so naive Effie believes. John meanwhile appears to view her as a lovely social prop for his budding career. He quite literally flees from any physical or emotional engagement with his wife.
Night Moves (New Video, Blu-ray, DVD, Cable VOD), the fourth film that New York-based director Kelly Reichardt has made in Oregon, is her most commercial project yet, though you won’t mistake this drama of eco-terrorists who blow a dam on a southern Oregon river for a Hollywood thriller. Reichardt and longtime screenwriting partner Jon Raymond focus on the process and the people, a trio of true-believers who want to make a “statement” and end up killing a camper in the collateral damage.
Jesse Eisenberg is the closest we have to a protagonist, a guy living on a co-op just outside of Ashland. He anchors this activist cell with a restless impatience for the blithe, stoner-like disregard for detail of the group’s combat vet (Peter Sarsgaard) and the new age-y philosophy of trust fund kid Dakota Fanning, the one who unravels with guilt over the camper’s death. They aren’t necessarily likable but they are compelling. The debates over the cost of action and the effectiveness of a destructive statement over productive alternatives are in the margins, present but always framed by the personal. The stakes are real—the opening shot shows the beauty of the Oregon wilderness gouged by a clear-cut patch in the wooded landscape—but so are the costs of action and Night Moves is all about responsibility.
Blu-ray and DVD with no supplements. Also on Cable VOD.