Tom and Viv Background

Tom and Viv Background

Tom and Viv is a movie directed by Brian Gilbert and adapted from a stage play of the same name by Michael Hastings. Hastings also co-wrote the screenplay with Adrian Hodges. It tells the story of the relationship between poet T.S. (Tom) Eliot (played by Eileen Defoe) and socialite Vivienne Haigh-Wood (portrayed by Miranda Richardson). The couple met at Oxford University in 1915 and were together until her death in 1947. This is not as romantic movie as it sounds because the priggish and narcissistic Eliot was a genius afraid of any kind of emotion whatsoever. Vivienne, on the other hand, was a beautiful and brilliant, but emotionally chaotic woman who suffered terribly from hormonal imbalances that made her act in a flamboyant manner that Eliot found embarrassing. Although still married at the time of her death, in reality Eliot had Vivienne committed to a mental institution in 1938 and had no contact with her for the twelve years preceding her death.

The film was well-received and it was nominated for Best Picture honors at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, and the BAFTAS. Nominations were also given to Miranda Richardson, Willem Defoe and Rosemary Harris who portrayed Vivienne's mother. Defoe had seemed like a strange choice to play the English poet and many critics were derisive of his stilted British accent, but the cruel emotional detachment of Eliot is at the core of his performance and unfortunately makes him the more watchable and captivating character when in reality Vivienne should have been the most sympathetic.

Another criticism of the film is that much of Eliot's more outlandish and bizarre behavior is never shown in the film that is fictitious but nonetheless based on factual events. His habit of wearing green face paint to preserve his skin, for example, went undocumented, leading critics to label the movie insensitive to women. The movie received neutral reviews but was largely well received by audiences.

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