Telluride: Mia Wasikowska Tackles France's Most Famous Fictional Heroine

The actress takes a break from 'Alice in Wonderland' to star in 'Madame Bovary'

Mia Wasikowska top-lined the latest adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's classic 1856 novel Madame Bovary, an exquisitely shot endeavor that nonetheless drew only tepid applause from an audience gathered Aug. 30 at Telluride’s Werner Herzog Theatre.

That would seem to indicate the movie’s awards chances are slim — even if it finds domestic distribution, which has yet to be announced.

Director Sophie Barthes, making a follow-up to her debut feature, 2009’s Cold Souls, was present to introduce the film, and apologized for the absence of Wasikowska and costar Rhys Ifans, both of whom are filming Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass. The movie also stars Paul Giamatti, Ezra Miller, and Henry Lloyd-Hughes as Emma’s husband, Charles.

“No high-profile female director has taken on the French classic Madame Bovary until now,” the festival program announced, with a touch of hyperbole. But the subject has been tackled repeatedly in both film and television versions, with the leading role taken by a host of stars, from Jennifer Jones (for director Vincente Minnelli in 1949) to Isabelle Huppert (for Claude Chabrol in 1991).

Taking only a slice of the book, the latest rendering tells the story of a young woman who marries a country doctor and pines for a better, more luxurious life, leading her into debt and affairs that ultimately cost her her life.

Barthes said the picture had consumed much of her own life for the past few years, and also that of her husband, cinematographer Andrij Parekh, whose ravishing work drew praise from audience members. That also meant it had taken up much of the life of their five-year-old daughter, she said. Barthes talked about the trouble she had explaining its story to the young girl, ultimately saying it was about a woman who failed to find the right Prince Charming and then out of boredom spent too much. She noted the relevance of its theme to today, when women are still inculcated with the notion of finding a prince.

The picture had the bad luck to screen right before one of the festival’s most anticipated films, Fox Searchlight’s Birdman, meaning that many attendees scurried straight off to get in line for the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film.