OPHELIA – Review by Susan Granger

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In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, troubled Ophelia is driven mad when her father, Polonius, is murdered by her lover, the titular Danish prince. Supposedly, she falls into the river while picking flowers and sings as she slowly allows herself to drown.

Set in 14th century Elsinore, this Ophelia (Daisy Ridley…a.k.a. Star Wars Jedi) says to forget everything you thought you knew and watch as she relates her revisionist perspective on the tragedy, adapted from Lisa M. Klein’s YA novel by screenwriter Semi Chellas and Australian director Claire McCarthy.

“You may think you know my story,” Ophelia says, adding, “I was always a willful girl.”

Indeed, when she was only 10, motherless Ophelia sneaked into a royal banquet where, after overhearing a conversation about Eve’s Biblical temptation, she piped up, “I think the apple was quite innocent in the matter”…to the dismay of her social-climbing father Polonius.

Unlike other young women of that era, headstrong Ophelia has learned how to read, a skill that appeals to Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), who requests that Ophelia read bawdy medieval erotica aloud to her before retiring to bed.

That, added to Ophelia’s familiarity with particular herbs, elevates her quickly to favored lady-in-waiting status, making trip-after-trip into the woods to visit the hermit’s hovel that belongs to the witch Mechtild (also Naomi Watts) to obtain elixirs and potions for the “fickle, frail” Queen.

Meanwhile, when Hamlet’s father dies, Prince Hamlet (George MacKay) returns to the palace, expecting to take rightful place on the throne. But his ambitious Uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) has other ideas, romantically pursuing Queen Gertrude, his sister-in-law, which arouses rumors about the late monarch’s demise.

While the production design (elegant costumes, lush cinematography) is sumptuous, Steven Price’s loud, pretentious score drowns out much of the dialogue. So the novelty quickly wears off.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Ophelia is a slick, yet silly 6. It’s a feminist folly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ophelia is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 5, 2019

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.