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Keep The Aspidistra Flying Review

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For Gordon Comstock (Grant), trotting out advertising slogans is smothering his poetic muse - he needs his freedom. So, to the chagrin of faithful girlfriend Rosemary (Bonham Carter) and sister Julia (Harriet Walter), he exchanges well-paid employment for toil in a dead-end bookstore and frequent, vitriolic outbursts at the aspidistra plant innocently decorating his lodgings.

★★★★

No real sex, no violence, no action and no slapstick comedy. In the absence of such investor-friendly levers, it is - as director Bierman (the man behind Vampire's Kiss) freely admits - no small wonder that having finally prised the rights to George's third novel from the guarded Orwell estate, it took a further decade to get the film off the ground. A painful insight, perhaps, into the author's own personal despair and professional frustration, reflected in this semi-autobiographical tale.

Trimmed from the novel's ranging, heavily-populated scope, Bierman's film focuses simply on his central romantic duet - and the strain exerted by Comstock's artistic pretensions - and becomes a sprightly and sweet-natured comedy, with warmth, wit and characters worth caring about. In Grant's highly-skilled hands, Comstock is a literate, pseudo-philosophy-spouting dervish, with a pragmatic Bonham Carter making the ideal foil.

This carefully crafted picture deserves - for entirely different reasons - as much attention as Orwell's more famous works. It's funny, without jokes, touching, without sentimentality, and it features Grant spitting "You verdant bastard" at a hapless aspidistra with a blend of humour and venom that neatly and effectively characterises the whole film.

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