why Cranky is in pain
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Jude
Starring Christopher Eccleston, Kate Winslet, and Liam Cunningham
Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Film students and Prozac-takers of the world may now unite and rave as one for the brilliantly produced and acted Jude, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel "Jude the Obscure." The rest of us can avoid paying the ticket price merely by putting a plastic bag over our heads for a couple of minutes.

Jude is bleak, mentally and physically oppressive, depressing -- add any other synonym you can think of. I tend to remember my time in the theater as the equivalent of being punched in the stomach while being whacked in the head by a ball-peen hammer.

Jude is the story of a poor English stone mason (Christopher Eccleston) who greatly admires the only learned man in his village, the schoolmaster Phillotson (Liam Cunningham). He decides to better himself through learning. But hormones get in the way, and Jude finds himself married to the daughter of a pig farmer (a step down, as his mother warned him), learning to slaughter piglets the old fashioned way -- with great clumsiness. Which is only the first of two stomach-turning scenes in the piece.

Abandoned by his wife, Jude sets himself back on course towards a life of learning. But he will be rebuffed by the upper class University, find his perfect mate in Sue Bridehead (Kate Winslet), a cousin he can never marry (because divorce just isn't allowed in 19th century England). We're not even close to the halfway point. Love wins out and everything gets worse when the kids come. And the first wife returns. And . . . no, I'll leave that for those of you out there who wish to suffer through other people's misery.

Let me be very plain and honest about this. The production values are terrific. 19th century England is clearly manifested on the screen. The performances by all are convincing. But for Cranky, the woman who accompanied me, and a big-name critic we spoke with after the performance, Jude was an incredibly unpleasant two hours in a movie theater.

Things start out bad. Then they get worse. Then they get worse still. And then the nasty emotionally wrenching stuff is dumped on you like hot oil out of the parapets of a medieval castle.

Cranky's position has always been that movies should entertain or give you something to think (or talk) about afterwards. Jude may invigorate film students and ex-film student critics (please note that everything I have ever written has been called "review" not critique) but not me, and certainly not the small audience I saw it with. Jude as a whole is so overwhelmingly oppressive and depressing -- the one beacon of optimism is crushed immediately, that I can't recommend it.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Jude, he would have paid . . .

$1.00

No complaints about the acting or design. I won't give the coveted "zero" to a film which has anything in it to compliment. Thus it is. Thus shall it ever be.

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