I took my girlfriend to see this film based on George Orwell’s 1936 novel, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying”. She thought she was watching a depression era English romance starring Richard E. Grant (“Withnail and I”) and Helena Bonham Carter (“Wings of the Dove”). I thought I was watching a condemnation of class pretension and artistic hubris. We were both right.
Gordon Comstock (Grant) is the star copywriter for the New Albion advertising agency. After his first book of poetry is well-reviewed, he quits his job to become a full-time poet and “free man”, much to the dismay of his graphic artist girlfrield, Rosemary (Carter). All she wants is to settle into a mundane middle-class life. Gordon must first learn how much use the middle class and the rest of society really has for poets.
As most of the world has little idea what an Aspidistra is (house plant), the new, less esoteric title refers to Orwell’s description of the war of the sexes. The primary battle revolves around Rosemary’s attempts to reality check Gordon. Generally, reality does that for her. Gordo works his way to the bottom of a society based upon arbitrary claims of superiority before he gains some clairity and takes some responsibility for himself.
Is it any good? It’s a decent high-brow/middle-brow date film, far less annoying than a typical Merchant-Ivory opus. Twitchmeister Grant (the British Nic Cage) could make anything watchable and Bonham Carter is serviceable in a role where she only needs to look exasperated. The second best reason to go is to straighten out any pretentious friends who find “work” beneath them. The best reason is that the other screenings this week were “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, “54” and (shudder) “A Night at the Roxbury”.