by Greg Muskewitz
A more contemporary effort from Merchant-Ivory, in times at least closer to A Soldierís Daughter Never Cries, but dramatically quite distant.The movie is an Allen-esque assemblage of top talent, if all of the actors are not household names, they still manage to bring the same level of skill. The core of Le Divorce has Kate Hudson coming to visit her married sister, Naomi Watts, in Paris, and all plans are sidestepped when her husband leaves for another woman and the drama of a divorce creates a particular panic over a possible authentic La Tour painting that originates with the American family, but that the French side wants dibs on through the settlement. There is added baggage of pressure from family and friends on what to do, whoís doing whom, and who should being doing what, or again, whom. Through James Ivoryís adaptation of Diane Johnsonís novel (adapted with oft-collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), what could easily have been the movieís comedic centerpiece and highlight is left as an indiscretion for far too long, billowing in the horizon, but tip-toed around until it absolutely must be dealt with. And when the time comes, mostly near the end, itís used as a ploy to temporarily heighten some suspense for a predictable and unsatisfying turnout. Much of the story follows in the same footsteps of the painting subplot ó there is such an availability for space in which to work, whether it be dramatic or comedic, that Ivory leaves the living room floor open and free of clutter simply to display the openness without ever actually filling it. For one thing, the movie has a horrible idea in the passage of time. A haircut or a reference to a considerable piece of news (after the fact, of course) are the only alerts that time has gone by, opting to tell instead of show. Le Divorce is restrained to an unsteady pulse, relegated to the unpredictable whim of its characters, which all tend to lead up to nowhere; the story blows freely through the Paris air as does Hudsonís character. The movieís cast is pretty spectacular, but put to waste; they all perform as best as they can, but there is no determining factor in whose roles make sense and build up, and those whose donít at all (Matthew Modine). Again, there is a lot of potential for comedy over the familial conflicts, the American vs. the French, but Ivory and company barely touch upon it. Unfortunately, good actors must have good writing and a good scenario for their work to flourish. The peak of Le Divorce, so to say, is the tag-along tour we get of the Eiffel Tour, beautifully photographed and explored with the camera, bringing us and its characters to the pinnacle of excitement throughout.[See it if you must.]
"Keeping the living room clutter-free just to show there's open space."
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originally posted: 12/28/03 23:14:35