Oscar and Lucinda
Director: Gillian Armstrong. Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Cate Blanchett, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, Richard Roxburgh. Screenplay: Laura Jones (from the novel by Peter Carey).

A fully, perhaps unexpectedly beguiling picture, Oscar and Lucinda is, to my mind, the Great Lost Movie of 1997, the picture whose floating midwinter release date lost it helplessly but shamefully in the post-holiday shuffle. To be fair, it's hard to imagine Gillian Armstrong's inspired, almost neurotic character study achieving broad appeal in any movie season, but the virtues that so many moviegoers missed out on comprise a long, distinguished list. The evocation of period in its costumes and sets is flawless, and the twitchy, entrancing work of Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett proves that old but often-forgotten rule that movie romance only works when the characters are not romanticized. Above all, Geoffrey Simpson's sparkling cinematography, as taken by the magic of a well-baked plum pudding as it is by a sunset on the water, was perhaps the year's best. I forget who said they had stopped going to movies because they always knew what shot was coming next, but Oscar and Lucinda—smart, funny, warming, and heartbreaking—provides a bounty of reasons for them, and us, to step back to the box office. Grade: A

Academy Award Nominations:
Best Costume Design: Janet Patterson

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