THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Compulsory & addictive, it mimes froth of Victorian London Sts. Cinematography, costumes & sets force viewers deeper into its dark psychological story. The plot and writing are less than stellar. Lead characters portrayals leave one mesmerized by the despicable dearth and poverty of a Dickensian era. Catherine Cookson's poor and low-class tales come to mine too. Don't expect glamor and Victorian gaiety, but every form of crime and dereliction known of the time, 1874. No sympathy, it's lost in strong crass depictions that leave little to imagine. Mad, cunning women are played so well the viewer begins to hate, not adore these characters. Yet it's a mini-series you'll love hating.

The camera's eye, focused on the disgust of the dirty streets and rooms, is filmed so cunningly it resembles Impressionism art done with dark color. Not a love story, but debauchery glistening from mud, vomit, blood and ale. Stunning visuals obligate viewing. Romola Garai (Emma; Amazing Grace) turns sharply from roles like "Emma." As Sugar, she's sweet/sour in her portrayal both with and without clothing as she passes from prostitute, to mistress, to governess. Her Mom and Madam (Gillian Anderson- Bleak House) is so convincing she seems to have literally taken a turn into the underworld. Mrs. Fox (Shirley Henderson- Wish Me Luck: Series 3) seems unable to decide which side of the orgies she desires. William (Chris O'Dowd) will disgust men and women, with and without garments. Plenty more adding to a coarse, disturbing image of poverty and orgy coming to life. Adults only, strongly recommended.

SUBTITLES for all 4 episodes (an hour each) and bonus material.
1
Step immediately into a violent, crass world of brothels, drink, crime, and Sugar. Introductions of William, a want-to-be writer who mirrors Sugar's own novel attempt. His mad wife pens diaries of illness and abuse. Wm's bro writes sermons. Sugar decides Wm is a rung up the ladder of respect.
2
Wm gets Sugar an apt. She becomes `guardian angel' to another woman, to her gainful advantage. A mistress becomes obsessed. Mrs Fox and Wm's bro have their own bodily fantasies.
3
Sugar becomes a family tutor and more of a wife's madness is exposed via diaries, driving her closer to an asylum. Sugar interferes with unexpected results.
4
Sugar's lap of luxury begins to crumble. Loathing works its way into the lust. The climax of lives gets dirty and dark.

From the book by Michel Faber. BBC drama, not for the faint of heart. The title comes from a line of Tennyson's 1847 poetry, quoted in the series.
If you can't handle earthy, ghastly, sexual crudeness, give it a pass. I'm not sold that the film needed all of it, but it is there. This tames Cookson films and "Lady Chatterley's Lover."
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
The four part British production "The Crimson Petal and The White" showcases a world with little hope and much depravity. And yet, it revels in this exquisite misery! It is so bleak and so dark, in fact, it is sure to turn off certain viewers. But its willingness to push into this unpleasantness (and beyond) is just what makes this miniseries so compelling and so very different. It is a masterful presentation, to be sure, recreating a London of the 1870's with rich period detail in both costuming and sets. But this is no staid and refined period piece. It is explicit and graphic in depicting the underbelly of the city. Set partly in the streets and the brothels of London and partly in the realm of the aristocracy, "The Crimson Petal and The White" tells the story of one prostitute's efforts to bridge this gap by any means necessary. And what she finds as she moves toward better conditions are every bit as alarming and disturbing as what is shown on the mean streets! Really, there is no respite in this world! But that's exactly why I liked this brutal and uncompromising program, it never goes soft or promises anyone happiness.

Romola Garai play Sugar, a world weary working girl, who really knows how to manipulate a mark. She harbors violent fantasies and dreams of a different life. Setting herself apart as a premium girl, she pursues an avenue of escape with single minded obsession. One day, she meets a rather timid john (Chris O'Dowd) who seems smitten with her and is genuinely easy to bend to her will. When she recognizes that he is a man of great wealth, she maneuvers to become his mistress. She insinuates herself into the life of his mentally damaged wife and eventually gets close to his troubled daughter. But what soon becomes apparent is that this new world is fraught with a different kind of danger. And she morphs from the power holder in her relationship with O'Dowd to someone completely at his beck and call. The household is a rather unsettling place and she comes to understand the wife's madness and the daughter's withdrawal. Can she find redemption? Is she to become a reluctant hero? Or will her twisted game of cat and mouse continue indefinitely with her increasingly dismissive patron?

The cast of "The Crimson Petal and The White" really display themselves well in change of pace roles. Garai (most recently of The Hours) has never seemed so hardened or manipulative. At first, I was somewhat put off by her aloofness, but it is this matter-of-fact vacantness that serves as the hard exterior necessary for survival. O'Dowd, now getting a lot of notice for comedic performances (Bridesmaids), is mesmerizing as someone you'd rather not know. I really liked this darker persona. They are really the heart of this story, but a number of familiar faces are in the supporting cast including Gillian Anderson as a gruesome madam, Shirley Henderson as a reformer, and Richard Grant as a doctor. Everyone is quite good, but the O'Dowd and Garai dynamic is always the miniserie's strongest aspect. The show was nominated for a slew of 2012 BAFTAs including Best Actress for Garai and Best Miniseries. "The Crimson Petal and The White" is never particularly enjoyable, per se, but it's a bold and provocative experience for adult audiences who don't mind a little wallow on the dark side. KGHarris, 10/12.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2012
I have read the book twice and plan to read it again. For those of you that did read the book - it follows the novel closely. I also plan to purchase this movie and watch it again.

It is shocking in nature with the sexual content and the street life of the poor and the prostitutes, but I think it represents what it would have really been like in that time period. There is no romanticized view to the movie and is not your typical period piece (which I am a huge fan of by the way) so if that is what you expect you might not want to watch it.

I thought the characters were well casted based on the characters in the novel and the scenes and costumes were eerily beautiful.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2013
If you've never read the book, I can see why you might not like this.

Readers love the novel because it gets into the heads of the characters and brings them to life. You feel their emotions and hear their thoughts and inner most secrets. You get to know the characters from the inside out. Sadly its these types of books and characters that are nearly impossible to bring to life on screen. Almost always they fall flat, and that's whats happened here to a certain extent. While readers won't mind because they know what the characters are thinking/feeling in any given scene, people new to the Crimson Petal world may be disappointed.

In the novel, we come to know Sugar as a terribly abused girl with a brilliant intellect and rich inner world, who is desperate to escape the brothel of her madame who is her also own mother, Mrs. Castaway. We're privy to her every thought, feeling, emotion, hope, and fear as she slowly and skillfully navigates her way up through the rigid caste system of the time.

The Sugar of the TV adaptation comes off as almost drugged and at times nearly deranged. Her eyes are blank, unblinking, staring. Her tone is flat, her expressions stale, and she comes off as sullen and manipulative, instead of fiercely hopeful. Also, not enough time is spent explaining Sugar's book and why she writes it. Viewers are given the lazy explanation that it's a "hate book" against the men she services, which does not help her gain the sympathy of the audience, especially when they use her lover William as the man in all of her dark torture fantasies. It makes her look like a psycho.
If you've read the novel, you know what Sugar is thinking and feeling in every scene, so it's great, you know she's not really crazy or evil, so you don't mind experiencing her story again this time from the point of view of her customers or from the outside looking in. But if you *haven't*, you're most likely going to be left going "What's everyone so crazy about?" and feeling like there isn't a character you can really root for.

My advice: If you're curious about the whole Crimson Petal obsession but are on the fence and hoping to use the TV series as a cliffnotes version, skip it and read the book. You won't be disappointed. Get past the boring first three chapters, the only time the author missteps by peppering them with vulgarity meant to shock and titillate the reader but instead annoys, and the one whole chapter devoted to William and his stupid hat (why the author thought that was a good way to introduce a main character, I have no idea), and you'll be hooked, I promise.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2012
I won't summarize the story, as it has been done perfectly by several fellow reviewers. I will say that this was a very interesting and absorbing series. When I started, I thought it would be simply too bleak, an attempt at Dickens or so, but after a bit I had to know what would happen. You begin to care about Sugar is is much more than the strangely aloof girl she fist appears as. I won't spoil the end for anyone, but it left me wishing for an epilogue of sorts, the only slightly unsatisfying part, but I suppose it stayed quite true to the book. The way it was filmed, the colors of costumes and the set was excellent and created the perfect atmosphere for every scene. The acting, by everyone, especially the very versatile Garai, was top notch and deserving of some award or other. Overall it is absolutely worth the four hours:)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2013
I always anticipate a movie- or made for TV film- to be the poor man's version of the book, with lots of inconsistencies. I was pleasantly surprised with this one.
Given the immense length of Faber's novel by the same name (900+ pages), it's to be expected that there would be some slimming down, but they did a brilliant job of keeping it true to word. The four episodes flew by, leaving me spellbound by how well the story of Sugar was brought to life.
The miniseries spends a little less time on the side characters than the book does, but this might make it more accessible to some people. They still gave almost everyone their due, and the casting was excellent. Romola Garai made a stunning sugar- I wasn't sure what to expect, not recognizing her from previous films, but was very impressed by the end of the series. Her eyes draw you in and she's stunningly beautiful to watch.
Victorian London in both her underbelly and better-loved counterparts are brought to life, and you actually feel like you're right there, getting splashed by muddy rainwater as carriages roll by, and the sound of horses hooves go clacking past. Instead of making everyone look glamorous and Hollywood ready, the cast was realistic, and each beautiful in their own right, and all highly skilled in their craft.

For those who aren't familiar, the story is about a prostitute, named Sugar, born into the trade and struggling to survive in Victorian England. As with any class, in such an era, security for a woman was essential before she aged, and this often only lay with securing a man, by being mistress or wife. Sugar, however, is a bit unconventional, and staggeringly bright- and through her, we are introduced to a motley crew of upper crust prudes, dandies, philanthropists and victims, as well as a string of prostitutes, imps, madame's, and poverty stricken persons living along side Sugar in her early days. It's the story of Sugar, as she grows, but also of the people she meets; Faber tells his story in a way that makes you sometimes feel like you're a passerby, eavesdropping on the lives of others. He doesn't sugar coat the realities of a hard life, or the flaws of the human heart; leaving you with honest, sometimes likeable, sometimes not, but always true, characters, who stay with you long after the film- or book- has ended. This is a gritty, raw kind of story, and you'll have to dig deep for your happy ending- which Faber does give, by way of leaving things unanswered, and allowing you to fill in the gaps as you may,

Overall, an excellent adaptation, and watchable by anyone having read the book or not- though if you haven't, you owe it to yourself to pick up the book as well.

The DVD features 2 discs, with 4, one hour episodes. Subtitles in English; series is in widescreen format, region 1.

One last thing: this is a BBC style series. I say that because if you're not familiar with this style, and expecting a glossy, Hollywood type series, you'll find this one to be a lot different. That doesn't mean bad- I think that they tend to be far more realistic, somewhat more akin to theatre; minus the over-dramatic, maudlin type productions of the early BBC style. For those who are unfamiliar with the style, I thought it was worth mentioning.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The four part British production "The Crimson Petal and The White" showcases a world with little hope and much depravity. And yet, it revels in this exquisite misery! It is so bleak and so dark, in fact, it is sure to turn off certain viewers. But its willingness to push into this unpleasantness (and beyond) is just what makes this miniseries so compelling and so very different. It is a masterful presentation, to be sure, recreating a London of the 1870's with rich period detail in both costuming and sets. But this is no staid and refined period piece. It is explicit and graphic in depicting the underbelly of the city. Set partly in the streets and the brothels of London and partly in the realm of the aristocracy, "The Crimson Petal and The White" tells the story of one prostitute's efforts to bridge this gap by any means necessary. And what she finds as she moves toward better conditions are every bit as alarming and disturbing as what is shown on the mean streets! Really, there is no respite in this world! But that's exactly why I liked this brutal and uncompromising program, it never goes soft or promises anyone happiness.

Romola Garai play Sugar, a world weary working girl, who really knows how to manipulate a mark. She harbors violent fantasies and dreams of a different life. Setting herself apart as a premium girl, she pursues an avenue of escape with single minded obsession. One day, she meets a rather timid john (Chris O'Dowd) who seems smitten with her and is genuinely easy to bend to her will. When she recognizes that he is a man of great wealth, she maneuvers to become his mistress. She insinuates herself into the life of his mentally damaged wife and eventually gets close to his troubled daughter. But what soon becomes apparent is that this new world is fraught with a different kind of danger. And she morphs from the power holder in her relationship with O'Dowd to someone completely at his beck and call. The household is a rather unsettling place and she comes to understand the wife's madness and the daughter's withdrawal. Can she find redemption? Is she to become a reluctant hero? Or will her twisted game of cat and mouse continue indefinitely with her increasingly dismissive patron?

The cast of "The Crimson Petal and The White" really display themselves well in change of pace roles. Garai (most recently of The Hours) has never seemed so hardened or manipulative. At first, I was somewhat put off by her aloofness, but it is this matter-of-fact vacantness that serves as the hard exterior necessary for survival. O'Dowd, now getting a lot of notice for comedic performances (Bridesmaids), is mesmerizing as someone you'd rather not know. I really liked this darker persona. They are really the heart of this story, but a number of familiar faces are in the supporting cast including Gillian Anderson as a gruesome madam, Shirley Henderson as a reformer, and Richard Grant as a doctor. Everyone is quite good, but the O'Dowd and Garai dynamic is always the miniserie's strongest aspect. The show was nominated for a slew of 2012 BAFTAs including Best Actress for Garai and Best Miniseries. "The Crimson Petal and The White" is never particularly enjoyable, per se, but it's a bold and provocative experience for adult audiences who don't mind a little wallow on the dark side. KGHarris, 10/12.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2012
I have to admit I was waiting for this to be released because I read the book of the same name and it was quite good but the DVD is beyond belief. If you only watch one Movie or Mini Series this year this is the one. The book can be off-putting at first if you're adverse to foul language and sexual references but you just have to remember at the very beginning that it's necessary to this story. It seems to me to be more of a tale of the plight of Women in that period of history (1800's) and it's incredibly moving. The story itself moves at a good pace and I was so engrossed I couldn't stop watching. It seems very realistic of the time period and brings to light some of the atrocities women had to deal with in that Century. It's well known that Prostitutes were very prevalent then and that men could easily put their wives in an insane asylum if they chose to whether the wife was insane or not. However this movie goes deeper, it shows other issues that one might never imagine if they never saw this film. I don't want to spoil it for anyone by telling too much of the plot but I think all women should see this series if only to gain a better understanding of history. It's the BBC so you can be assured it's not going to be too raunchy and all of the scenes that might offend someone are relevant to the story and tastefully done. I watched it with my 72 year old Mother. Sets and costumes are perfect and realistic. Excellent film and very well done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2013
I watched this in one sitting...perhaps, a mistake due to being immersed in the dark-side of London life back in the 1800's. The costumes and settings of this movie are wonderful and the plot and acting are also wonderful. This movie is dark to the extreme, yet you find yourself still applauding some of the characters as they struggle to survive and even better themselves. The plight of women of the day is really shown...where there are very few choices, especially should your husband die and you are left with no income.

Spoilers below:

This is the story of Sugar (no other name) who is a prostitute in old London. She was born to the life and knows little else, save that she also fancies herself a writer and wants to get away from what she is doing to survive. To that end, she hooks up with a gentleman who has low self-esteem, also sees himself as a would-be writer, and an overbearing father who despairs of his son taking up his business (beauty products, soaps, lotions etc). Sugar is said to give every man what he wants...and she does. Among other things, she inspires William Rackham to be more self-assured and take more control of his life and business, enough so that he makes money to be able to keep her in better surroundings. However, she soon discovers that all is not well in his home life, as his wife is in fragile mental health and thinks she will soon be called home to some "convent" in Heaven, even as she is tormented by the doctor who is supposed to be helping her. Sugar slowly becomes more and more embroiled in the life of her sugar-daddy and his messed-up family, as well as in her own machinations.

The stars of this movie are really the two women, the prositute and the wife, the crimson petal and the white, and their own struggles to take back their lives and become who they really want to be...despite how society and circumstances try to make them be less than who they are. This movie doesn't pull any punches as it shows the seamier side of life in London at that time and how even those who are wealthy can be trapped by expectations and their own fears and lack of education. This movie shows madness and loss and desperation and yet it also contains a message of love and hope.

This is definitely not a movie for kids or teens or the faint-of-heart. It has male and female nudity and some very rough, even brutal scenes.

But if you are interested in the plight of women in this time period, you might like this movie. Even though it is very hard at times to watch and the feel of the movie can stick with you for a long while afterward. This is not a movie lightly watched.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
Shockingly real in every detail someone did their homework in producing this amazing piece of film. You will feel and see and smell London as it really was and take a journey with amazing characters portrayed brilantly by a cast of actors truly dedicated to their performances. It is graphic so be prepared - but all is necessary to capture the depth of feelings.

In my area this show started at 10p.m. and ended around 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday night - it is a wonder anyone saw it - too bad because it is great.
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