She's no Angel

So I watched a movie on Netflix streaming recently called Angel - which I like to call the "naughty writer film".

I had never heard of it before and since it was given an average of 2.5 stars normally I wouldn't bother.  But this was a period piece that looked romantic by the poster image (the one above), starring a brunette Romola Garai and Michael Fassbender. about "the rise and fall of a young eccentric British writer".  I had to satisfy my curiosity.

Unfortunately it earned its 2.5 stars. I am puzzled by this bizarre film.  I'm not certain what it was meant to be... a tragedy, a melodrama? But it still intrigued me for several reasons.

First, if you want a great argument for having a likable protagonist, watch this movie. The main protagonist, Angel, is so unlikeable, it's almost crazy!  She starts out as a teenager who is certain that she's destined to become a famous, rich literary prodigy.  She treats her mother like excrement, looks down her nose at everyone around her, lies about everything and manipulates anyone who falls for it.  And when she does get that publishing deal she was so sure she'd get, she insults the publisher and his elegant wife and behaves like a fool.

I think that's what makes it hard to like the film (besides the oddly cheesy music). Angel, the unlikable protagonist, rises to the top of her chosen profession getting everything she's ever wanted - fame, money and love - and she's such a little snot about it the entire time!  Not a drop of humility. You're cringing at her every word. You're just waiting for her to get her comeuppance, and hoping (beyond hope apparently) that when she gets it, she'll learn something from it and become a humble, likable character which she never really does. I think she is similar to Scarlett O'Hara- spoiled, determined, egotistical, demanding.  But for some reason, Scarlett is likable in spite of all that, but Angel is not. Unfortunately, Angel's ending is not a happy one, and she seems to be little wiser or humbler at the end of it than she was in the beginning.

But the film still had a few things going for it that kept me watching.  The settings and costuming were luscious - fun to watch just for her clothes and outrageous mansion. I am including here some of the most gorgeous examples so you can enjoy them! I so wish I could have found a photo of her over-the-top gaudy red bedroom.

And as a writer, I found the fantastical notions about being a writer to be fun, silly, laughable and embarrassing.  Like the instant riches and acclaim - the lavish book-signings, the commissioned portraits. Like the fact that Angel says she does not read and has no interest in books - she has no time to read books - she is too busy writing.  Or her refuasl to let the publisher make a single change to her words. She pretty much fits the bill of a clueless, arrogant, delusional  person who dreams of being a writer. She is the ultimate naughty writer.

But I would say the film also captures things that ring true -  the way writers can feel so passionate and obsessed.  In one scene Angel has sent her work off to a publisher and she is waiting to hear back.  She stands at the window looking out anxiously as it snows, then it cuts to a scene of Angel standing by the window anxiously and it is now sunny spring - still no letter.  When the letter finally arrives, she pounces on it! In another scene, she is writing away when her husband leans in to kiss her and says "you write too much".  Any other writers been there?

And no scene says it more than the one where she wakes in the middle of the night, happy from being in bed with her new husband.  She kisses him on the cheek and then as the sun is rising you see her sitting at her desk, bare shoulders peeking above the chair and as the camera pans out, you also see her butt cheeks on the seat as she writes in the nude. It was so absurd and funny, I confess, that made me smile.

p.s. The movie is based on a book - Angel by Elizabeth Taylor.  There is a terrific review of it on A Work in Progress. I think I need to check out Elizabeth Taylor's work!

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