Charlotte Gray [2001]

Charlotte Gray does little to tarnish Cate Blanchett's rising-star status but misfires badly as a moralistic World War II drama. The title character of the film, which is based on a popular novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks, is a young Scottish woman (Blanchett) who has come to London to help with the war effort. After quickly falling in love with a dashing pilot who is summarily shot down in southwest France, the intensely patriotic Charlotte joins a special operations outfit in order to find him. Competent melodrama to this point, the film goes astray from here. Since repeated references are made to Charlotte's fluent French, it is hard to maintain any suspension of disbelief when she parachutes into Lezignac and we discover that the French resistance fighters she works with speak English with alternately French or British accents (while the Nazis continue to speak German without subtitles). A similarly perfunctory schema of good versus evil among the citizenry is soon laid out as collaborators and patriots are painted with equally simplistic strokes. Blanchett, along with Billy Crudup and Michael Gambon, gives a lively performance despite a shoddy script, but director Gillian Armstrong's conceits to a mainstream audience seem jumbled and not a little condescending. --Fionn Meade

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