Dakota Fanning Grows Up, Plays Historical Scandal In “Effie”

Dakota Fanning, child actress/bundle of tears so convincing that there must be some truth to them, is just about all-growed-up; and her first truly adult outing in the film business is going a long way to prove it.

“Effie” features a 17-year-old Fanning as the eponymous Effie Gray and her tumultuous, doomed marriage to 19th-century art critic John Ruskin. The marriage is historically notable (some might say infamous) for being a total train wreck that ended in scandal when Effie fell in love and absconded with artist John Everett Millais.

A brief lesson in history: Ruskin married Gray in 1848. He was 29 and she was 19. The couple’s wedding night came and went without consummation, as something about Gray was said to have horrified Ruskin. Hotly debated by historians, some say her personality turned him off while Gray herself hinted that female anatomy wasn’t exactly what Ruskin had expected.

In any case, with divorce being illegal, Effie was trapped for years before meeting and falling in love with Millais, an avant-garde artist of the Victorian era. Ultimately, Effie was granted annulment, and married Millais. The catch? General pariah status, even with Queen Victoria who would not allow Effie’s presence at social functions her highness planned on attending.

Familiar English Academy Award winning actress Emma Thompson calls it “the ultimate bad marriage.” Thompson, who penned the screenplay herself, says that she was drawn to Effie’s story due to its “archetypal quality”.

“It happens to be a costume drama, but you could be doing a story with this kind of complexity and oddness in any period,” she said.

Of the film’s themes and relevance, director Richard Laxton had this to say:

“We’re talking about a girl who is objectified, and then disappoints a man by being real, […] If that isn’t relevant, I don’t know what is.”

Fanning suggests that despite its bleak themes, the film is a journey to self-fulfillment rather than a Victorian depression/repression-fest.
Said the actress of her adult role:

“She’s such a strong woman — and such a modern woman for the time in which she lived.”

Thompson herself will appear in the film as Lady Eastlake, patron-of-the-arts and friend/confidante to Effie. Thompson’s husband, Greg Wise, plays Ruskin, Tom Sturridge plays Millais, and Julie Walters, James Fox, Derek Jacobi, and David Suchet will appear in supporting roles.

In case you skipped the history lesson, the director came up with this summary which we’re hoping puts things into better context for you:

“Young girl falls in love with Simon Cowell, goes off to a festival, realizes there is this other band member, then runs back to Simon,” he said. “He takes off to Scotland and locks them in a recording studio and she falls in love with the young lead singer.”

In our words: Dakota Fanning marries Simon Cowell but runs off with Pete Wentz.

What do you think of Dakota Fanning taking on more adult roles?