Charlotte Gray shakes you, too, in the wrong way. Director Gillian Armstrong turns Sebastian Faulks' pungent novel about World War II into a soporific. Even the luminous Cate Blanchett seems blanded out in the role of Charlotte, a Scottish civilian who joins the French Resistance in 1942 to find her lover (Rupert Penry-Jones), an RAF pilot whose plane has been shot down over France. Using the code name Dominique, Charlotte is soon fighting Nazis, falling in love with Resistance leader Julien (Billy Crudup) and realizing that war builds character. The script, by Jeremy Brock, offers little historical perspective and even blows the B-movie melodrama. Armstrong keeps things pinched and starched throughout, encouraging Blanchett to act insufferably noble like Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver, a propaganda film about self-sacrifice during wartime that inexplicably won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1942, when Yankee Doodle Dandy saluted the flag with more honest fervor. Sixty years later, Hollywood has recruited Blanchett to affirm the virtues of a stiff upper lip. Resist, Cate, resist.
From The Archives Issue 335: January 22, 1981