A politician’s son (Rupert Graves) takes a new girlfriend (Juliette Binoche), but there’s something about her that sends her future father-in-law (Jeremy Irons) into an infatuation with fatal consequences. What you might call an erotic drama, Damage is not without merit as both erotic and dramatic, but the two never seem to mesh together the way esteemed director Louis Malle intended.Irons is ultra-forthright in his role as MP Dr Stephen Fleming, a man on the move in the political world, as much due to his mentor’s machinations as his own skill. Perhaps he doesn’t really care that much for the world of politics, but Malle never allows him a chance to show us one way or another, instead invoking the crutch of silent stares to stretch a short story out into feature length. Juliette Binoche, not usually known for poor performances, takes this stony silence to an even further depth, perhaps trying to look sullen and dark but only managing to look bored and constipated for most of the flick.
These two are supposed to have suddenly become smitten with one another and found themselves in an uncontrollable sexual tailspin, but their chemistry is most definitely of high school standard. Though Malle can certainly bare some of the responsibility for the feet-dragging throughout this flick, the cast can’t escape their share of blame. Perhaps if all of the actors stank we could point at the director, writer and the work the film was based on, Josephine Hart’s novel Fatale, as the reason behind their failure. But supporting actress Miranda Richardson somehow managed to pick up an Oscar nomination for her role, as well as a handful of critical awards, so it’s more likely this was simply a case of actors not knowing what was required of them and Malle not putting his foot down.With this cast of names prepared to bare all for the camera, the legendary Malle at the helm and what looks like a decent budget at their disposal, there’s really no excuse for a finished work this middle-of-the-road. Sure, it’s far from awful, but surely nobody involved was aiming for mediocrity. Then again, Irons did appear in totally awful Dungeons and Dragons, so who knows what he’s thinking these days?