Jane Campion's Bright Star is the most generic historical romance ever put to film, or at least it feels like it. Boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love (dooooooomed love!); society and money issues keep boy and girl from being together; one of the two stays out in the cold rain for way too long, catches a nasty cough, and dies, leaving the other to emote, beautifully, for a few minutes. It doesn't matter one bit that the film is about tragic romantic poet John Keats; though Campion developed the screenplay from Keats's love letters, which should be material enough for three excellent costume dramas, she turns in what is easily the worst film of her career. There's none of the wit or exuberance or odd unromantic tendencies of her earlier work, leaving audiences to wallow in a subpar Merchant Ivory level of hell.
The only interesting performance, Paul Schneider's covetous Mr. Brown, is at first three-dimensional as he tries to get between Keats (Ben Winshaw, seemingly auditioning for the role of Edward in a community-theater rendition of Twilight) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish, a low-rent Keira Knightley), but Campion's lack of inspiration slowly whittles him down to a thin strip of balsa wood. When he is good, he's by far the best actor on the screen. When he's not on-screen, the costumes run rings around the actors. It's not that Keats is an uninteresting subject—he is at least twice as interesting as Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix combined—but the lack of art on display in Bright Star is enough to turn you off Keats for a good long while.