Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
France/USA, 1995. Touchstone Pictures, Merchant Ivory Productions, Centre National de la Cinématographie. Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Cinematography by Pierre Lhomme. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Music by Richard Robbins. Production Design by Guy-Claude Francois. Costume Design by Jenny Beavan, John Bright. Film Editing by Isabelle Lorente, Andrew Marcus. Cannes Film Festival 1995.
Low point for Merchant Ivory, this completely brainless period epic examines the years when Thomas Jefferson (Nick Nolte) was American minister to France, entertaining a romance with a married aristocrat (Greta Scacchi). Also starring a just pre-fame Gwyneth Paltrow, the film suffers from a terrible screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala that has little purpose: is it about Jefferson’s professional success or is it an examination of his personal life? A subplot involving the speculation over his relationship with a slave played by Thandie Newton is also a sad misfire. Gorgeously plush like any film by this dynamic trio of filmmakers, it’s really quite a shame how much of a failure this film is.