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.