Mike Leigh’s tale of Britain’s greatest painter begins awkwardly and has its share of deficiencies, but upon the artist’s first visit to the seashore the movie grabbed me and didn’t let go until the end of its 2 1/2-hr. run time. A number of amateur critics are calling Mr. Turner, to paraphrase, an abominable bore, but I disagree. As I said, I was held quite nicely. But the film did not take advantage of the subject matter to the extent it should have.
Specifically, Leigh failed to convey in a superlative way the ethereal beauty of JMW Turner’s paintings, the live scenes that caused their inspiration, and Turner’s experiences in those scenes; in nature. Instead the focus is more on Turner’s personal life and his impact on those close to him — and the movie is excellent in this regard. My problem is that the movie should have been able to handle both parts of the story with equal agility.
I have cogitated upon the matter, and Mr. Turner earns a solid 7/10.
* * *
Comparison Notes: The English Patient, Howard’s End, Only Lovers Left Alive