So many films about iconic figures attempt to solve the complex and sometimes irrational feelings of their famous subjects. With The Invisible Woman , director and star Ralph Fiennes does just the opposite, shrouding a period late in the life of Charles Dickens with emotional ambiguity and mystery.
In fact, this graceful and sublime drama isn't really about Dickens at all; it's really about a young actor named Nelly (Felicity Jones) with whom he falls in love at the height of his career, despite being married and having multiple children. She's an intense woman of manners and ideas, but brimming below the surface is an unrequited passion that immediately excites the sexually repressed scribe.
Structured as a flashback, the young woman remembers back to her initial meeting with Dickens during a staged drama of The Frozen Deep , an 1856 production that plays an influential role in fleshing out the tragedy of their love affair. Their shared glances are quick but pointed, nothing more than a breeze of melodrama that will eventually turn into a gale-force wind.
Traditional formalities dictate the terms of Dickens' subtle pursuit of Nelly, but, over time, his admiration grows a bit too obvious. This causes ripples not only with his wife and Nelly's mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), but eventually also high society at large.
Thankfully, The Invisible Woman —which opens Friday, Jan. 24, at La Jolla Village Cinemas—revels not in scandal but in the poetry of repression. Its best compositions convey this idea, like a grand reverse zoom that begins closely on Nelly and Dickens watching a horse race and trying to control their desires, then expands outward to include the entire crowd.
By the end, Jones' forceful performance stands tallest among her more esteemed peers. She gives Nelly a thriving, beating heart thatís bound to be broken.
¿Alguien ha visto a Lupita? : Lupita (Dulce Maria) flees her family after discovering that they plan to banish her to a mental asylum. She journeys to the U.S., setting off a series of events that draw all of Mexico's attention. Screens through Jan. 30 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Caught in the Web : After learning she has a terminal illness, a young woman is caught on camera defying traditional social graces, only to see the video go viral and potentially ruin the lives of her loved ones. From Chinese director Chen Kaige. Screens through Jan. 30 at Hillcrest Cinemas.
G.B.F. : A high-school student is outed by his classmates only to find himself recruited by three popular girls looking for a "gay best friend." Screens at AMC Mission Valley.
I, Frankenstein : Frankenstein's monster (Aaron Eckhart) gets turned into an action hero caught up in a centuries-old war between different clans of immortals.
The Invisible Woman : Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) secretly courts a young actor (Felicity Jones), sending a shockwave of melodrama through the streets of Victorian England .
Human Rights Watch Film Festival: Six socially relevant documentaries celebrating awareness and activism will screen Jan. 23 through 26 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park .
Journey to the South Pacific : This lush IMAX adventure is the perfect big-screen experience for underwater enthusiasts, exploring areas in the South Pacific that are home to more than 2,000 species. Through Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
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John Adams : This HBO mini-series examines the life of the second president of the United States (Paul Giamatti). Episode 3 screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, Episode 4 on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Lemon Grove Library.
The Spectacular Now : Miles Teller plays a partying high-school senior who romances a sweet classmate (Shailene Woodley) as he comes to grips with his uncertain future and tainted family history. Screens at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Mission Valley Library.
Pretty Woman : Julia Roberts' prostitute with a heart of gold gives Richard Gere's snobby corporate viper more than he bargained for, and the rest is romantic-comedy history. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Questione di cuore ( Matter of the Heart ): Celebrated Italian director Francesca Archibugi's gentle comedy is about two men with virtually nothing in common who strike up a unique and volatile friendship. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas.
A.C.O.D. : A successful restaurateur's (Adam Scott) life is turned upside down after his younger brother decides to get married, forcing a reunion of their warring parents. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
Dumb and Dumber : The comedic and asinine adventures of Lloyd (Jim Carrey) and Harry (Jeff Daniels) never get old. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Devil's Due : Newlyweds experience a lost night on their honeymoon thanks to good ol' Lucifer, resulting in an unplanned pregnancy and a potential Antichrist scenario. Call in Father Merrin!
The Great Beauty : A disillusioned novelist traverses modern Rome looking for epiphany in Paolo Sorrentino's gorgeous and surreal art film, which is a testament to physical surfaces and emotional depth. Ends Jan. 23 at the Ken Cinema.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit : Tom Clancy's favorite CIA analyst turned action hero gets his very own origin story, which involves a Russian plot to take down the U.S. economy. Chris Pine assumes the role made famous by Harrison Ford and denigrated by Ben Affleck.
The Nut Job : No nuts, no glory. So goes the tagline for this animated film about an outcast park rodent who must survive the harsh realities of the city after being banished from the park. It was only a matter of time before the squirrel population was properly represented in Hollywood.
Ride Along : Has Kevin Hart fatigue set in yet? The pervasive comedian stars in this action comedy with Ice Cube playing an angry cop and his future brother-in-law out to test his masculinity.
Valentino's Ghost : Documentary examining the ways American foreign policy in the Middle East solidifies the mainstream media's portrayal of Arabs and Muslims. It focuses specifically on the power behind cultural images. Ends Jan. 22 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Wajma, an Afghan Love Story : A young couple's relationship and cultural beliefs are tested when an unplanned pregnancy threatens their happiness. Ends Jan. 23 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
August: Osage County : A dysfunctional Texas family reunites when its troubled patriarch (Sam Shepard) goes missing, uncovering a barrage of dark secrets and regrets. It's based on the play by Tracy Letts and stars Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper.
Her : A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his new operating system (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) in Spike Jonze's tender and moving sci-fi romance.
The Legend of Hercules : Action director Renny Harlin ( Die Hard 2: Die Harder ) brings the origin story of Hercules (Kellan Lutz) to the big screen in not-so-glorious post-conversion 3-D.
Lone Survivor : Four Navy SEALs are behind enemy lines in the mountains of Afghanistan, fighting an army of Taliban insurgents. It's based on the failed Operation Red Wings of June 2005 and stars Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch and Ben Foster.
The Past : An Iranian man (Tahar Rahim) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce from his French wife (Bérénice Bejo), only to uncover a series of hidden secrets. Master dramatist Asghar Farhadi once again focuses on the devastating ramifications of past trauma.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones : A young man (Andrew Jacobs) begins experiencing strange phenomenon before realizing he's been marked by an evil spirit. It's the latest entry in the popular found-footage horror series.
47 Ronin : After their master is killed by a ruthless shogun, a band of samurai set out for revenge. Why they asked Keanu Reeves for help is still a mystery.
Grudge Match : Two aged boxers (Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro) are coaxed back into the ring in order to capitalize on their longtime rivalry. Call us crazy, but we don't think this film will live up to Rocky or Raging Bull .
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty : Ben Stiller revamps the 1947 Danny Kaye classic with a bigger budget and a bigger emphasis on the healing power of corporate products.
The Wolf of Wall Street : Martin Scorsese's sprawling comedic look at the rise and fall of Wall Street huckster Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who became an infamous figure in New York City in the 1990s.
American Hustle : Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in David O'Russell's retelling of the infamous Abscam sting established by the FBI in order to capture corrupt politicians and gangsters in the late 1970s.
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues : Infamous San Diego newscaster and lothario Ron Burgundy (Will Farrell) brings his motley crew of wacky colleagues to New York City in hopes of making it big on a national television channel.
Inside Llewyn Davis : Joel and Ethan Coen's latest odyssey is set in 1961 Greenwich Village, where a struggling folk singer (Oscar Isaac) comes to grips with his failure as an artist and a human being.
Saving Mr. Banks : Marry Poppins scribe P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) travels to Los Angeles to discuss a potential film adaptation by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in this whimsical biopic about two artists struggling to compromise.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug : Bilbo (Martin Freeman), please meet Smaug, fire-breathing dragon and protector of all things gold. Have a nice three hours together.
Nebraska : Aged retiree Woody (Bruce Dern) is determined to collect his winnings after receiving a phony sweepstakes letter, eventually dragging his reluctant son (Will Forte) on a road trip that'll change both of their lives. Alexander Payne's latest is a melancholic ode to family and the Midwest.
Philomena : Comedian Steve Coogan takes on a more serious role as a cynical journalist who ends up helping an elderly woman (Judi Dench) search for her long lost son. Oscar nominations are a certainty.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire : Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself once again fighting to survive the titular death match that has become a necessary evil in the dystopic future.
Dallas Buyers Club : In 1985, a drunken rodeo clown Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughy) learns he has HIV. Seeing an opportunity to stave off his own death and make some money, he begins smuggling unapproved drugs in from Mexico.
Thor: The Dark World : Thor (Chris Hemsworth) once again brings the hammer down on Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in order to save the human race and sustain the fragile balance of his own kingdom.
12 Years a Slave : Abducted and forced to work on a Southern plantation, free man Solomon Northrup (Chiwetel Ejifor) experiences the horrors of slavery in Steve McQueen's stirring period-piece drama.
Ender's Game : Orson Scott Card's classic sci-fi novel about a young pilot fending off an alien threat finally gets adapted for the big screen, surely angering fans everywhere. Harrison Ford co-stars as a growling general.
Captain Phillips : Based on actual events, this thriller by director Paul Greengrass tells the story of the container ship Maersk Alabama and its leader, Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), who was kidnapped by Somali pirates during a voyage in 2009.
Adventures in Wild California : Get crazy with this sports documentary that showcases snowboarders, skydivers and skateboarders doing extreme tricks in various regions around California. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Coral Reef Adventure : Local filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall directed this lush documentary that takes viewers to the world's most beautiful coral reefs, from Tahiti to Rangirora atoll. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Country Music: The Spirit of America : Narrated by legendary actor Hal Halbrook, this music documentary contains performances by more than 50 country stars. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Rolling Stones : The iconic band performs live during their "Steel Wheels / Urban Jungle" tour in glorious IMAX. Some musical satisfaction is guaranteed. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Mysteries of the Unseen World : This amazing documentary uses high-speed and time-lapse photography to focus on things that are either too fast or two slow for the eye to see. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
Cosmic Collisions : So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.