Message of this prissy English drama: Dick is good. (Note: I use the term "dick" in a genderless, non-pejorative way as a euphemism for sex. It is not meant to imply any Dworkinesque domination, but merely to heighten the contrast between repressed people and the sex act. If you have a problem with that, please disengage from the Interweb, put on your best stained undershirt, and return to shooing kids off your lawn.)
There are two storylines intertwined in this movie. In the first, Roland Mitchell (Aaron Eckhart) is a typical brusque American working in London as a research assistant. He discovers some original papers of poet Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam) that indicate he'd been having an affair even though he had a reputation for being loyal to his wife. Mitchell starts working with Brit Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow), a professor who's so cold she makes Margaret Thatcher look like a topless pole dancer. Eventually though, she discovers that dick is good, lightens up, and lets down her hair (literally).
As Roland and Maud discover little details about the past, director Neil ("In the Company of Men") LaBute takes us back in time to the actual relationship between Ash and Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle). Turns out LaMotte is happily ensconced in a lesbian relationship. Then, of course, she delves into a relationship with Ash, discovers that dick is good, and promptly complicates her life beyond all reason. While some might take this to mean that dick is bad, it's really LaMotte's refusal to acknowledge that dick is good that gets her in trouble.
In case you doubt my hypothesis of this movie's theme, just look at Aaron Eckhart's chin. He appears to have the ass of a tiny mammal glued to his chin. Nobody has that big of a dimple in their chin and I'm convinced he's killed one of those funny-looking little monkeys and glued its ass to his chin as a reminder to every woman that looks at him that ass is good. Naturally, by inference, this means that dick is good too.
In case you didn't know, Neil LaBute is a Mormon, which is very much like being a repressed British person except that you can have lots of wives. This means that you run around all the time pretending to be upstanding and not interested in dick until you have sex and wonder why the hell you don't focus on dick more often. LaBute's film may seem like a prissy English drama, but it's pretty obvious what's on his dirty mind.
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