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Overall Rating

Awesome: 3.92%
Worth A Look: 13.73%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 35.29%
Total Crap47.06%

6 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Le Divorce
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by Erik Childress

"Like We Needed Another Reason To Hate The French"
1 stars

So Kate Hudson thinks the French are more sophisticated than Americans. "Sometimes I'll be walking down the street and I'll hear some American and I'll just go 'of course they hate us," says Kate. "Of course they can't stand us. We're the most annoying, boisterous creatures in the world." OK, and an alien in Contact said we're "capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares." Even an alien talks about all of humankind and not differentiating between two cultures because they had a nice vacation shooting a movie. Although both Hudson and director James Ivory are American and have collaborated to create a genuine nightmare called Le Divorce.

Where this film ever leans in the "Greatest Country in the World vs. The Smelly French" debate is so ever clouded. OK, I'm bias. I don't care about substituting "Freedom" for "French", since when was the last time you included an adjective when ordering your fries at the drive-up window. And it has nothing to do with the word "yellow" and everything with "rude." Not just impoliteness, but a smug exterior suggesting that their attitudes are light years ahead in the sophistication game. Le Divorce does nothing to strengthen their case.

The title of the film (based on the best-selling novel by Diane Johnson) stems from Frenchman, Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) leaving his American wife, Roxy (Naomi Watts), during her second pregnancy. So sophisticated. He's having an affair but Roxy is urged by his mother, the Madame de Persand (Leslie Caron) not to endanger social position by granting a divorce. Not since Tina Turner kept her name has such strives been made in the world of marital unbliss.

Roxy's sister, Isabel (Hudson) arrives in France to be with her and to soak in a little culture while she's there. One of her first moves is to instantly bed down an annoying little French dude who looks like Eraserhead having a bad hair day. Intrigued by politician L'Oncle Edgar Cosset (Thierry Lhermitte), a distant relative on the French side, Isabel immediately takes him up on the suggestion to become his mistress. The idea of French etiquette vs. that of a U.S. senator and his diary is briefly touched upon and does nothing more than drive home that it's a slimy practice albeit with benefits for both sexes. 50% like sex. 50% like purses. 100% Class.

Then there's the business of the Walker family painting. In true uncouth American fashion, the artifact is an heirloom and Roxy's birthright until it's discovered it could be worth a pretty penny. Coupled with the comedy of manners, this is already enough for farce material as several curators and appraisers show up to try and secure the paintings for their respective clients. We haven't even discussed the aging writer (Glenn Close) whom poet Roxy works with or the enraged lunatic American husband (Matthew Modine) who blames just about anyone in the cast he can come in contact with for his cheating wife, who appears to be a loon who likes to spin around and speak in tongues that can be best described as wholly Ewok-ian.

Having not read the original Johnson novel (an author who also co-wrote the screenplay for The Shining), I can confidently say that readers will be incensed at the treatment their beloved text has been given. A little research goes a long way and even internet Cliff's Notes divulge a complexity and richness which the film never comes close to running away with, despite it being set in France. Wokka Wokka Wokka. Perchance it's unfair to judge since I can only comment on what's present on the screen as opposed to the page. But when the book's publishers run interference months in advance, urging me to read the book so I don't associate IT with the screenplay, you can tell something's amiss.

I'll never take the opportunity to ever read that book now since the damage is done and I want nothing ever to do with this tale ever again. Call me a snobby, crass American (proudly) but the thoughts that raced through my head during and after this film could have got me arrested in a world of Pre-Crime. I'd rather go to Kings Island amusement park in Cincinnati to the replica of the Eiffel Tower than travel overseas. I'm considering boycotting the Paris hotel in Las Vegas during my next visit. In the climactic scene on the real Tower, I wondered what ever happened to the hydrogen bombers from Superman II. I wanted to find Gerard Depardieu and kick him right up the nuts. But that really has nothing to do with this movie.

The only worthwhile thing in Le Divorce is Stephen Fry (Jeeves & Wooster, Blackadder), last seen stealing the show in Gosford Park. This splendid British actor shows up as one of the art appraisers, or better yet to throw in his few asides at the French. His wonderfully funny scene reminded me at the differences between what the Brits have done for comedy around the world and what the French have. Bearing in mind the great Jerry Lewis debate which has supporters on both continents, the Brits have provided Monty Python, Mr. Bean, Eddie Izzard and countless others. The French have given us Francis Veber movies.

Le Divorce is quite simply an awful movie, proving once and for all that Ivory and his producing partner Ismail Merchant should stick with period pieces. When they try and catch up with modern times, their own lack of sophistication sticks out like the cigarette from a Frenchman's mouth. The film has too many characters all doing the same bit of nothing. Both American AND French cultures get shortsighted, religious and political moirés into fidelity are brushed away and the film shifts from melodrama to farce to tragedy and back to comedy (using that term lightly) at the drop of a razor. "Mounds of food," said Hudson, "we're like 'where's the ketchup' for our French Fries and 'excuse me' and all these things and you're like 'shut up.'" Kate, you read my mind.

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originally posted: 08/08/03 15:03:28
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User Comments

6/26/19 David Baker Pretentious crap 1 stars
4/03/12 Goldie Hawn I think Kate Hudson is stunning, but 15 secs of her is more than enough for me. 2 stars
1/25/09 Nathan Anyone who finds this movie anything but shitty is too dumb to ever talk to 1 stars
5/04/06 Alainb i love this film kate hudson is verry great on this film... 5 stars
5/06/05 Colleen Goldrick If your divorced you'll chuckle 4 stars
9/19/04 CharWar This is an awful movie - what were these 2 great actresses thinking?! 1 stars
7/25/04 S.F Le crap ! 1 stars
7/24/04 Monster W. Kung Cra; what kind of movie is this anyway, comedy, drama, romance? What the hell? 2 stars
4/30/04 mornaiguy There's absolutely no tension in this movie, nothing to keep your attention. 1 stars
4/17/04 Aldo quite possible, the worst flick ive ever seen :( 1 stars
3/03/04 mary not at all what i expected it to be like!!!! was long and boring with no proper storyline 2 stars
2/26/04 john wallace what a waste of talented actors. Superficial characters but beatufully photographed. 2 stars
12/30/03 Chris The cast sounded great, alas the film is not. 2 stars
11/29/03 Helen Bradley great film acting and script 5 stars
9/14/03 Stephanie Great Scenery Wasted Actors and Plot 2 stars
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  08-Aug-2003 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2004



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