(out of 5)
In this latest offering from the team of Merchant Ivory, a young American woman (Kate Hudson) arrives in Paris to be with her newly pregnant sister (Naomi Watts), a poet who lives in the fair city with her French painter husband. Hudson’s arrival is greeted with the husband’s departure when he decides to leave Watts for another woman; she tries to be supportive of her now-abandoned sister, but can’t help but be taken in by the magnificence of Paris and in particular the opportunity to become the mistress of an older, conservative politician (Thierry Lhermitte). The politician is related to Watts’ ex-husband, unfortunately, and their relationship might screw up the process of the divorce, the central argument of which is the ownership of a priceless painting that Watts brought into the marriage but now might be split up between them. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala maintains her ability to put marvelously intelligent dialogue on the big screen, but the storyline of this film is muddled and the tone unsure of itself; while playing like an effortlessly witty comedy, it is for the most part a dull drama with a very underdeveloped sense of fun, which then turns into a story of intrigue in its last third before settling into an out of place and rushed ending. Supporting cast members Stockard Channing, Leslie Caron, Sam Waterston and especially Glenn Close contribute a healthy sense of class to the experience, but Hudson’s miscasting in the lead sticks out like a sore thumb and you spend the whole time wishing the film was more about her much more interesting sister (Watts is, quite simply, flawless).
Directed by James Ivory
Cinematography by Pierre Lhomme
Music by Richard Robbins
Production Design by Frederic Benard
Costume Design by Carol Ramsey
Film Editing by John David Allen