Possession | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Two literary scholars (Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow) doing research in England on separate Victorian poets jointly discover that these poets--one of them married (Jeremy Northam), the other a lesbian (Jennifer Ehle) with a live-in lover--may have had a secret affair. While chasing after clues, the scholars develop a possible relationship of their own. Oscillating between past and present, this adaptation of A.S. Byatt's prizewinning novel sounds like it could be too precious for words, but I was wooed by its sexy romanticism all the way through the mysterious and beautiful coda. Director and cowriter Neil LaBute has a mixed record in my book, but if I'm reading the signals correctly, here he's serving the material rather than playing auteur, and his two cowriters--David Henry Hwang (the author of M. Butterfly) and Laura Jones (who scripted An Angel at My Table)--are unusually skillful. Reportedly the biggest departure from the novel is making Eckhart's character an American; Paltrow handles the manner of an English academic with grace and aplomb. 102 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Crown Village 18, Esquire, Lake, Webster Place.

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