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"Le Divorce"

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 “L’Auberge Espanole”, 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, 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 do better?

Rating:  Matinee


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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 "Office Space"). 

"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, 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 half stars." 

"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 Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09