Fingersmiths run amuck in Victorian England

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In mid nineteenth century (1861) London the poor all live in squalor. Survival for the impoverished means brazened theft, pick pocketing, and deception. The most successful thieves and cons are dubbed “fingersmiths.” Richard “The Gentleman” Rivers (Rupert Evans) has targeted Maud (Elaine Cassidy), a young and naïve aristocrat living under the thumb of her eccentric uncle. With the devious hope of snagging the fortune Maud will inherit from her deceased mother upon her twenty-first birthday, Gentleman enlists the talents of Susan to pose as Maud’s servant. She is to convince Maud to marry Gentleman. After the marriage Gentleman plans to have Maud committed to an insane asylum, and he and Susan will divvy up the pounds. Things get dicey when Susan grows closer to Maud than she thought.

This movie adaptation of the book with the same title by Sarah Waters is rich. From set design to wardrobe, Fingersmith’s authentic and elegant simplicity is ice cream and cake for the eyes. Posh costumes, natural lighting, and old English forever romanticize Victorian England for an audience already immersed in the story thanks to a believable script.

It’s clear that the actors had a great time portraying their characters, though they were a little cliché. In made-for-TV movie fashion, director Aisling Walsh divided the story into separate parts. While arguably cheesy, the move proved to add suspense and fuel anticipation for the conclusion.

My only real complaint may be a slightly perverse one. I needed less cloth-to-cloth intimacy and more raw get-it-on action with nudity. Hey, what can I say!? I’m honest.

I loved Fingersmith from beginning to end. It is a polished movie that tells an old story without all the dust.

Till next year — be smart, be strong, be safe, and try to slow down long enough to watch a good movie.

 

Fingersmith: B+
(2005, total runtime 180 min.)

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