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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20%
Worth A Look66.67%
Average: 6.67%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 6.67%

1 review, 9 user ratings

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Painted Veil, The
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by brianorndorf

"For 60 minutes, this is one of the best films of the year"
4 stars

While “Painted Veil” has all the cinematic luxury and performance detail of fine china, it tends to read a bit like an episode of “Guiding Light” at times.

Embraced by the sweltering emerald green of the Chinese countryside, “The Painted Veil” is one of the most stately soap operas of the year. It’s an actor’s love fest, with Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, and Liev Schreiber snatching every last drop of ennui and tight-fisted emotion they can.

After a brief courtship, Kitty (Watts) has agreed to marry Walter (Norton). A distant couple without much in common, Kitty soon embarks on an affair with a society man (Schreiber). When Walter discovers Kitty’s infidelity, he volunteers himself in the name of medical science to travel to a remote Chinese village currently enduring the ravages of a full-blown cholera outbreak. Kitty, with nowhere else to go, reluctantly agrees to journey with him. Once faced with the horrors of the disease and the resentment of the locals, the two warring spouses discover new forms of appreciation while standing in the shadow of death.

“Veil” is adapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel, which also found cinematic translations in 1934 and 1957. The story is a fragile, crystal spider’s web of remorse and renewed admiration. Truthfully, it’s really a period episode of “Guiding Light,” but with stiff upper lips and time made for tea. There’s tragedy galore and adultery too, and director John Curran (“We Don’t Live Here Anymore”) doesn’t turn his back on any of it. The bigness of the drama is what powers “Veil” for the first half of the story. By taking on melodrama, Curran grabs hold of the audience as the characters frost and thaw in these extreme conditions. Maugham’s structure favors the set-up of the tale, where the conflicts erect quickly, and danger is pronounced in the clearest of terms.

Because of this speed, “Veil” peaks about 60 minutes in. From then on the picture slows down to a faint smolder as Kitty and Edward start to appreciate each other again from afar. Curran also takes advantage of the deceleration by revealing more of the ravages of cholera (it ain’t pretty) and feeding a subplot about local political upheaval. “Veil” quickly begins to glaze and ceases to dig for new inspiration. The second half of this 125-minute film doesn’t throw the theatrical punch a finishing act should, and once the story starts to lean heavily into eye-rolling catastrophe, you might be glad the film is nearing the end of its overstayed welcome.

Fans of the tea-n-manners genre should find plenty to love in “Painted Veil.” The tech credits, with luxuriant cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh (“The Piano”), are incredible, and, once again, composer Alexandre Desplat (“Birth”) proves a welcome addition to any motion picture. The experience just doesn’t sustain itself very far; still, the initial forward push of top-heavy drama is enough to leave the viewer satisfied.

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originally posted: 12/22/06 18:23:27
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User Comments

2/13/10 Maria So glad I cam across this movie on cable. I liked it so much I bought the DVD right away. 5 stars
5/03/08 Karrie Millheim Romantic and a little sad, I really enjoyed the movie 4 stars
6/25/07 fools♫gold Deserves the same grade as the previous year's "Land of the Dead". 3 stars
5/22/07 Suzanne Beautiful and heartbreaking, Norton & Watts are superb. One of the best films of 2006. 5 stars
5/06/07 djacosta Crappy movie, full of cliches 1 stars
4/05/07 William Goss Well acted, well directed, and well-paced for first hour, then typical and drawn-out. 4 stars
3/20/07 anitamich outstanding film..........of epic proportions! 5 stars
2/17/07 jcjs Norton/Watts produced..sad lovely..'Down In The Valley' hit me more , though..fine acting 4 stars
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  20-Dec-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 08-May-2007



Directed by
  John Curran

Written by
  Ron Nyswaner

  Edward Norton
  Naomi Watts
  Liev Schreiber
  Diana Rigg
  Anthony Wong
  Zoe Telford

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