"...just because LaBute has the inclination,
and the competence, to make a decorous academic love story doesn't
mean that he's suited to it...The movie is intelligent yet lifeless;
it's all wisps and abstractions....Each time the film flashes back
to the historical amour, there are Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle,
letting sensual love dissolve propriety the way it has in every
third-rate Brit costume romance since Merchant met Ivory." --
Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"... the witheringly misanthropic and misogynous Mr. LaBute is a strange
choice to direct a double-tiered love story...Ultimately, the film
never recovers from the clumsy clichE` of the ugly American abroad,
and the too-frosty exterior Ms. Paltrow employs to authenticate her
British persona is another liability." --Andrew
Sarris, The New York Observer
"Mr. Northam and Ms. Ehle do their best to suggest their characters'
almost unbearably complex inner lives, but Mr. LaBute's interest in
them is limited...But when examining Roland and Maud, his own contemporaries,
Mr. LaBute shows unusual compassion...While Mr. LaBute, surprisingly
enough, shows himself adept at romance, he falters when the story
calls for suspense... Still, his heart is, for once, in the right
place, and 'Possession' is in the end an honorable, interesting failure.
It falls far short of poetry, but it's not bad prose." --A.O.
Scott, The New York Times
"Paltrow is able to project a certain ethereal bookishness, but a
contemporary man with Eckhart's pumped-up physique and adamant indifference
to Paltrow would be read by many observers as gay. That he is not--that
his reticence is a quirk rather than a choice--is a screenplay glitch
we have to forgive. We do, because the movie is not a serious examination
of scholarship or poetry, but a brainy romance...Any two people can
fall into each other's arms and find that they enjoy the feeling.
But to fall into someone else's mind--now that can be dangerous."
--Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"...Eckhart serves as a constant source of irritation. His big cleft
chin perpetually unshaven and deep-set beady eyes scanning the set
for obstacles, he looks more like a dissolute tight end than an oppressed
research assistant ...'Possession' suffers from insufficient nastiness.
Everyone, save the designated villains and professionally obnoxious
Eckhart, is altogether too dear."--J.
Hoberman, The Village Voice
"...what's supposed to be a deep examination of the transcendence
of love and art and poetry turns into another shallow film about how
repressed the British are...The kicker, of course, is that the Brit
gal is American actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who reprises her not-quite-convincing-enough
British accent of 'Shakespeare in Love' and 'Sliding Doors'...You
can't help feeling sorry for these characters for having to inhabit
such stereotypes...Are Brits all sexually repressed?...Are lesbians
all clingy harpies? Are American men all boors with Kirk Douglas chins?"--Eric
Brace, The Washington Post
"...sure as his hand is in the historical segments, LaBute can't avoid
a fatal mistake in the modern era: He's changed the male academic
from a lower-class Brit to an American, a choice that upsets the novel's
exquisite balance and shreds the fabric of the film, corrupting all
of LaBute's good work and robbing it of the impact it would otherwise
have...Eckhart's fish-out-of-water persona is such an awkward mistake.
His character is too brusque, too insistently crude... It's as if
LaBute couldn't bear to leave well enough alone, couldn't resist placing
an intrusive mark on the proceedings." --Kenneth
Turan, The Los Angeles Times