Directed by James Ivory.
Written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and James Ivory. Based
on the novel by Diane Johnson.
Starring Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts.
Release Year: 2003
Review Date: 8/15/03
Trying to balance out my blockbuster roster
with my summer indie list, I knew that there would be a
Merchant/Ivory film sometime this year and whammo, it’s the new
comedy “Le Divorce.”
“Le Divorce”--based on a novel by Diane
Johnson--is a spectacular, unbelievably OKAY movie. It is startling
in its OKAYness. Rarely do I get to see films that aspire to be
exactly 5 out of 10 stars, and “Le Divorce” is that film. Which is
surprising, given the reception of the book and the fact that you’ve
got a lengthy list of stars that show up in this film--Naomi Watts,
Kate Hudson, Glenn Close, Bebe Neuwirth, Sam Waterston, Matthew
Modine...hell, even the lead from this summer’s
Romain Duris, is in the damned thing. Add to this pedigree a truly
stunning Paris production locale, a beautiful French villa,
exquisite shops and beautiful apartments. A classic Merchant/Ivory
production in every way.
Unfortunately, the goings-on with the plot
are quite boring, and this leads to the film’s biggest problem--the
actors appear to be acting, and acting quite well, but the words
coming out of their mouths are often quite uninteresting and dry.
The film’s comedy is more witty than really funny...so, you have a
sequence where Watts (as a mother whose husband walks out when the
film opens) tells Hudson (as her sister) that “all of the French
react to bad situations with ‘of course.’” Cut to shots of Watts
talking to two different French women about her situation, and what
do they respond with?
“Yes, of course.”
“Ahh, of course.”
Insert light snicker here. Of course, in
cineaste-rich San Francisco, this sequence produced loud guffawing
from a few folks in front of me; I was sitting there thinking “Come
on, people! They just told you that joke was coming.” Sad. The
rest of the film’s plot--if it can be called that, since this is
more a year-in-the-life plot than anything else--involves the Hudson
character serving as a mistress to some important French official
(Thierry Lhermitte, who has so many film credits that I am shocked
I’ve never seen him before). And, there is a painting that needs to
be fought over. And poetry that needs to be read. And, lovers that
need to cheat on more husbands or wives. And on and on.
Along the way, the film is never really
boring...but, never really exciting, either. This would make for a
great Rental, but it sits perfectly as a Matinee in that you will
drop $7 to see it, enjoy looking at the French sets, enjoy very
lightweight dialogue (much of which is subtitled French, for those
that hate that sort of thing) and forget about the entire affair an
hour later. Remember, you could do worse, but wouldn’t you rather
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard