The Crimson Petal and the White (2011) short review

I tried to read the book and found it ponderous, wordy, and just plain unexciting (I mean, how many descriptions of a prostitute with eczema can one read?), so it’s saying something to say that this was really quite fabulous! Romola Garai plays Sugar, a prostitute with a little something special — but weird special! She falls in with a well-off businessman (played by Chris O’Dowd, which if you’re a fan of the British comedy “The IT Crowd,” you will be just as freaked out by as me — he’s quite good in both parts, but MAN are they different!) who has a wife with some serious issues (unhelped by him and a REALLY freaky doctor). Okay, point is they hook up, shack up, and then complications arise when Sugar gets to know the wife and their child…

Really great Dickensian settings, great but appropriately dark bustle-era costuming, and some faaabulous makeup design (particularly on Gillian Anderson as the aging madam). The ending was kind of strange to me, but I’m assuming it’s true to the novel.


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.