Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Canada/USA/Hungary/United Kingdom, 2004. Serendipity Point Films, First Choice Films, Hogarth Productions, Myriad Pictures. Screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the novel Theatre by W. Somerset Maugham. Cinematography by Lajos Koltai. Produced by Robert Lantos. Music by Mychael Danna. Production Design by Luciana Arrighi. Costume Design by John Bloomfield. Film Editing by Susan Shipton.
Not since Cousin Bette has a woman’s revenge been this much fun. Annette Bening tears into the role of a famous London stage actress who is starting to lose the thrill of performing before a live audience night after night.
Her vigor is restored when she meets a young American financier (Shaun Evans) and starts a passionate affair with him, only to have her vanity devastated when he takes up with a much younger woman (Lucy Punch). Have no fear, though, for fate delivers the young woman straight into the lion’s den by having her All About Eve her way into the same play as our protagonist, thus allowing Bening the opportunity to prove her superiority and get a little of her own back in the process.
While doing so, she realizes that the time she has spent re-enacting life on the stage has made her forget what she liked about it in reality, leading her on a quest for personal self-discovery that will mark an important change in her personality.
Even though it’s a trifling story, free of any dramatic intensity or even serious importance, this is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy that benefits from Istvan Szabo’s surprisingly light direction and Bening’s relishing every minute that she’s on screen. Full of stage monologues and personal soliloquies, not to mention crying and rage scenes, it would be the kind of the thing an actor would play to the hilt for prizes, but Bening’s great skill finds the humanity in every aspect of this character who is gradually learning to go from superficial to superbly human.
Academy Award Nomination: Best Actress (Annette Bening)
European Film Award Nomination: Best European Cinematographer
Golden Globe Award: Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Annette Bening)
Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination: Best Actress (Annette Bening)
Toronto International Film Festival: 2004