The title sounds vaguely Calvin Kleinish. but it’s more the fusty musk of academia that hangs in the air as two sleuthing modern scholars (Paltrow and Eckhart) unearth an illicit romance between a pair of fictitious 19th-century poets (Northam and Ehle).
LaBute wasn’t the first filmmaker interested in adapting A.S. Byatt’s dense 1990 novel. Sydney Pollack took a whack at having David Henry Hwang adapt it (Hwang retains a writing credit); the interest of directors Mike Newell and, reportedly, Gillian Armstrong also waxed and waned. The big stumbling block, says LaBute, was ”managing the present-day [half of the] story. How do you make people reading interesting?” It certainly helps if you cast good-looking faces to do the reading. LaBute’s constant collaborator Eckhart (”In the Company of Men,” ”Your Friends & Neighbors,” ”Nurse Betty”) for once appears ”prettied up” instead of boorish, says the director, while love interest Paltrow starts out wearing ”rollneck sweaters and things that close her off, [but] she slowly lets her hair down.” And the director promises the conclusion is ”unabashedly romantic. I think people are very afraid of that word these days. And people don’t expect it coming from me.”