Review of Total Eclipse

Picture this: A movie about two 19th century French poets. How does that sound? It sounds like a bad idea because it is a bad idea.
It’s a worse idea than the talent in this picture would probably care to admit to. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in yet another true-story-about-poets movie this year, following up his excellent portrayal of teenage wacko Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries with one of even more wacko teenager Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse. David Thewlis (Naked) is Paul Verlaine, a slightly older poet who becomes entranced with Rimbaud, who returns his affections with little more than scorn and physical abuse. Verlaine in turn passes this abuse on to his pregnant wife, Mathilde (Romane Bohringer).
Verlaine tries to get inside Rimbaud’s skin, ostensibly to make himself a better poet, and the film spends inordinate amounts of time following their misadventures: Verlaine and Rimbaud crash a party; Verlaine and Rimbaud frolic in a field; Verlaine and Rimbaud frolic on the street; Verlaine and Rimbaud frolic on a beach. Are you still awake?
Rimbaud ends up converting Verlaine from a mild-mannered gentleman into a certifiable nut bar. And for some reason, they keep stabbing and shooting each other when they aren’t drinking absinthe to excess. In the end, the movie is a nearly unwatchable look at a couple of people who we don’t understand any better by the time the film is over. In other words: a complete waste of time.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if there was a speck of likeability in any of these characters, but they are so disgusting and crass, I just wanted to leave the theater halfway through. But I didn’t. Instead, I stuck it out to see if some big payoff awaited me for wading through the 110 minutes of boredom, but alas there was none. I was afraid the movie was never going to end with its drawn-out, weepy, melodramatic finale. Boo hoo.
Director Agnieszka Holland has a bad habit of making either really good movies (Europa, Europa) or really bad ones (Olivier, Olivier). Total Eclipse is her worst, with the stylistic direction earning the film its 1/2 star. That’s being generous.
Director : Agnieszka Holland
Producer : Jean-Pierre Ramsay Levi
Screenwriter : Christopher Hampton
Starring : Leonardo DiCaprio, David Thewlis, Romane Bohringer

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