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The Invisible Woman (2013)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/15/2014

All Ratings out of



Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/9/2014

In my recent review for Philomena, I wrote about the number of Oscar-caliber movies which are based on true stories. My issues with that aside, it can certainly be interesting to learn about an important person or event. Sometimes we've heard of these people (Captain Phillips) or they may be new to us (Dallas Buyers Club). Movies like this can hold even more intrigue if the subject is something or someone we really want to know more about. We've all heard of Charles Dickens, but how much do you know about? It turns out that I knew very little, which is where The Invisible Woman comes in.

The Invisible Woman begins in the latter part of Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) life. At this point, he is a successful and famous writer who has a large family. Dickens throws his energy into writing and staging plays with Wilkie Collins (Tom Hollander). Frances Ternan (Kristin Scott Thomas) brings her daughters Maria (Perdita Weeks), Fanny (Amand Hale) and Nelly (Felicity Jones) to be in Dickens' latest production. Dickens immediately notices Nelly and begins to pay a lot of attention to her. He calls upon her in her home and sends her letters. Soon, Nelly begins to reciprocate the attention. However, Dickens is still married, despite the fact that he no longer pays attention to his wife. Soon, rumors begin to spread that Dickens has a mistress. What can Nelly do to protect her reputation?

As noted above, I knew the bare minimum about Dickens. Based on his writing, I assumed that he would be a dark and dour man. As portrayed in The Invisible Woman, he was a lively and buoyant man who liked being the life of the party. And I guess that we can go ahead and question his morals as he was pursuing another woman when he was married. Of course, it was Nelly who would be seen as the scandalous one if the relationship became known to the public. In the beginning, we see Dickens as a magnetic personality and we aren't surprised that someone would be attracted to him. But, as the story progresses, we see that he can also be pretty and cruel. As for Nelly, she does her best to spurn his advances and she doesn't like what she sees of his lifestyle, but she eventually gives in. Once this happens, the film's title comes into play, as Dickens must hide the affair from the world.

So, The Invisible Woman offers an interesting story about a well-known figure from the past. Why wasn't this an Oscar nominee? Most likely because the movie is dreadfully dull at times. Star Ralph Fiennes also takes over the director's chair for this film and he clearly can't decide what kind of movie he wants to make. On the one hand, it's a biopic, as it depicts a certain period of time from the life of Charles Dickens. That's fine -- actually, that's first and foremost what this movie should be -- but Fiennes often skimps on the specific details and unless you are very familiar with Dickens' work (which I'm not), you may not at what point in his career the story is taking place. The movie also plays as a gothic romance, as we watch Dickens court Nelly in the manner of the day. The production design of the film is top-notch and everything looks historically accurate (as far as I could tell), but the romance aspects of the film feel very rote and don't entice the viewer. Lastly, for some reason, Fiennes has strived to give the movie a dreamlike quality at times. There are slow-motion shots and oddly framed moments which slow the movie down and take away from the story. There's nothing wrong with wanting to bring some flair to the proceedings, but the movie skews towards being an "art movie" at times, and this does not help to make the movie more engaging.

I first heard about The Invisible Woman on NPR and I thought that the movie sounded like it would be a worthwhile endeavor. Oh, NPR, you done done me wrong! Again, the information about Dickens is fascinating and I can honestly say that I learned something from the movie. But, this is one of those "based on real life" movies which works to hard to be cinematic and I realized that I would have much rather seen an actual documentary on this subject than to wade through the pretense offered here to learn about Dickens.

The Invisible Woman bugged the Dickens out of me on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The film has a slightly dark look, but the action is always visible. Along with this, the color palette skews to dark, so any bright color really stands out. The depth is good and the level of detail is nicely done, as we can see textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at an 48 kHz and an average of 3.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For a historical drama, the movie shows off very impressive sound design. The passing of the horse-drawn carriages provides notable stereo effects, which shows nice separation, as well as palpable subwoofer effects. The applause of the audiences at the plays provide detailed surround sound effects.

The Invisible Woman Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones. "SAG Foundation Conversations with Ralph Fiennes & Felicity Jones" (27 minutes) offers a Q&A with the two artists following a screen in Los Angeles where they discuss the movie and the real-life characters. "On the Red Carpet at the Toronto Premiere" (17 minutes) actually opens with red carpet footage, but then jumps to Fiennes addressing the addressing the audience, where he is then joined by Jones after the screening. We get even more comments from Fiennes and Jones in "Toronto International Film Festival Press Conference" (21 minutes). The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long