- David Zak
GENTLEMAN JACK is a classic!
If you love Bridgerton but wish it was a little queerer, GENTLEMAN JACK is perfect for you. It brings to life Anne Lester's struggle for acceptance as an intelligent businesswoman challenging the men who dominate the country and dictate societal expectations in England in the 1800s.
Suranne Jones is outstanding as Anne Lister, striding through the English countryside in a long coat and top hat like a windstorm. Her performance is so detailed. Athletic and hard-working when she needs to be, her exquisite use of her hands illustrates her knowledge, hunger for adventure, and most importantly, love of women.
Sophie Rundle plays the woman Lister adores. She embodies the expected innocence associated with privilege, coupled with the anguish when sharing her forbidden love with family, friends, and people of faith. The film makes note of two men in the area who had recently been executed for 'unnatural acts' so the stakes cannot be higher.
I am struck by Lister's fashion as she dressed almost always in black, which brings her more attention when in public. That makes the scenes in which we see her private self - with her hair down and clothing removed - even more powerful.
Anne's famous five million-word diary, written between 1806 and her death in 1840, includes unique details of her life and travels, business and scientific interests, and her determination to live with the women she loved. She wrote in a code that included the Greek alphabet, zodiac signs, punctuation, and mathematical symbols. The code was only broken decades after her death as the diary was preserved by family members. Watch the film closely, as her journals are always on a bedside table. After what seems to be a sexual episode, we see her check her pocket watch and jot the elapsed time in her journal.
Sally Wainwright is the creator of this award-winning series, and she has assembled an excellent team of writers and directors to bring each episode to life. As with Bridgerton, the costumes, settings, and period details are enough to make you freeze-frame each new floral arrangement, tea set, garden, or gorgeously photographed countryside. I am a big fan of the music of composer Murray Gold, with a special shout to the creators of the ending theme "Gentleman Jack" by O'Hooley & Tidow
Many will ascertain striking parallels between our society and hers. But like many of the trailblazers we now revere, her courage, and love are an inspiration to all.
Much of the attention for queer summer entertainment has gone to FIRE ISLAND on Hulu and QUEER AS FOLK on Peacock. Both of these shows have entertainment value; GENTLEMAN JACK has the substance that will bring it greater esteem in the coming seasons, making it a classic like Carol and Maurice - queer films that get only better as they age.
GENTLEMAN JACK is on HBO and HBOMax.