Hysterical Drama Of Historical Figure

Posted: April 21, 2000

ENSLAVEMENT: THE TRUE STORY OF FANNY KEMBLE, 8 p.m. Sunday, Showtime.

Fanny Kemble wrote a memoir about life in slave-era Georgia that, when published in her native England, was credited with persuading Parliament to withdraw loans to the Confederacy, which in turn weakened the war effort in the clash between North and South.

On the other hand, in "Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble," she spouts such balderdash as "No one can paint me as I am because I am not what I appear to be" and "I am sick to death of being Fanny Kemble but I'm so good at it, I can't do anything else" - in the film's first six minutes. So you're not really inclined to think very well of her, regardless of the historical record.

And one suspects that Jane Seymour, who stars as Kemble and serves as executive producer of "Enslavement," really didn't have anything powerful or persuasive or interesting to say about slavery, she just wanted to be heroic while parading around in some really elegant gowns. And so she does, after winning the heart of a wealthy land owner named Pierce Butler (Keith Carradine), who tells her, "I would never attempt to restrict you," but of course, after the requisite love scene, he's doing precisely that not five minutes later. The rest of the movie is just as subtle.

Like "Sally Hemings: An American Scandal," which aired on CBS two months back, "Enslavement" can't decide whether it's a story about race or just a standard-issue bodice-ripper; unlike "Hemings," it's more at home as the latter. Director James Keach, Seymour's husband, gives himself the role of a simpering yet heroic doctor who chases Fanny; he also opens the movie with an exploitative and otherwise unrelated scene straight out of "Mandingo" of semi-nude slaves brutalized for engaging in a romantic coupling.

He also bathes his wife in so much soft focus the whole movie feels fuzzy. Though the film spans 20 years and Fanny was in her 50s during the Civil War, Seymour - whose British accent sounds like the result of watching an hour or two of "Masterpiece Theatre" - doesn't seem to age a day. Sitting through this, however, will most definitely impress upon you the ravages of time.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|