LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER -- A Disappointing Adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Groundbreaking Novel
Review by Tatiana Miranda
Most well-known for its controversial sexual content, D.H. Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover has received the Netflix treatment; its 1928 private publication has been updated for the 21st century via a feature-length film. Starring Emma Corrin as the titular Lady Chatterley, the film is clearly marketed toward fans of steamy period pieces, most notably Bridgerton. The plot centers around Lady Chatterley's husband's injury from the first World War, which causes his inability to fulfill her sexually. Due to her sexual frustration and his want for an heir, Lady Chatterley begins to have an affair with someone that everyone around her seems to disapprove of — her husband's gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors.
With its plot of secret romance and sexual liberation, Lady Chatterley's Lover appears to be a prime contender for a 21st-century adaption. Still, through a modern lens, the film's key subjects lose the nuance they had over a hundred years ago. Instead, its subtly shot sex scenes appear lackluster in comparison to other sex-positive period pieces being released today. Although Corrin and Jack O'Connell, who portrays Mellors, give it their all in terms of chemistry, the sex scenes end up feeling awkward and unfeeling. Between the lack of communication between Chatterley and Mellors and their hasty sexual encounters, the "love" between them that other characters allude to feels out of place.
Beyond the romantic and sexual nature of the plot of the book, Lawrence also takes note of Mellors and Chatterley's class differences. The film adaptation hints at this, with the occasional commentary on local mining conditions and Mellors's profession. Still, this aspect takes a backseat to the more romantic tone of the source material. There are times when this feels like a solid choice, as the film already surpasses two hours, and other times where it feels that, by losing this commentary, Lady Chatterley's Lover becomes just another sex-filled period piece.
In the end, the sex scenes of Lady Chatterley's Lover outweigh the social commentary, yet they don't feel warranted enough to give the film romantic merit. The film ends up feeling like a jumbled yet aesthetically pleasing mess. The extremely talented cast doesn't help with the confusion, as their captivating character portrayals tend to distract from the disjointed nature of the film's intent. Does Lady Chatterley's Lover want to be a romance movie or erotica? Whichever it is, the film hardly achieves it and instead leaves the audience feeling disappointed in how they spent the last two hours.
Lady Chatterley's Lover premiers in select theaters on November 23 and on Netflix on December 2.
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