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29 October 2014
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15Le Divorce (2003)

updated 13th August 2003
reviewer's rating
two star
Reviewed by Neil Smith


Director
James Ivory
Writer
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
James Ivory
Stars
Kate Hudson
Naomi Watts
Glenn Close
Matthew Modine
Leslie Caron
Thierry Lhermitte
Length
117 minutes
Distributor
20th Century Fox
Cinema
2003
Country
USA/France
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Web Links
Official website



Director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant once planned to film Henry James' novel "Portrait of a Lady", only to be beaten to the punch in 1996 by Jane Campion and Nicole Kidman.

Undeterred, the heritage cinema duo have now adapted a book by Diane Johnson that effectively replays James' story in the present day.

All the elements are here for another Merchant Ivory winner - an excellent international cast, eye-catching Parisian locations, and an intelligent screenplay from the team's regular writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.

Something has gone seriously awry, though, judging from the arch, pretentious and unwieldy concoction that has resulted.

Kate Hudson plays Isabel, a young American who travels to Paris to visit her pregnant stepsister Roxy (Naomi Watts). However, no sooner has she arrived than Roxy's husband Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) walks out on her to live with his Russian mistress.

The divorce proceedings that ensue revolve around a painting by French artist De La Tour, a family heirloom that, under Gallic law, is 50% Charles-Henri's. Isabel, though, has other things to worry about: namely a job assisting Glenn Close's ex-pat novelist, and an adulterous fling with her brother-in-law's politician uncle (Thierry Lhermitte).

With relations between America and France at an all-time low, the time is ripe for a satirical look at the socio-cultural differences that divide the two countries.

But Ivory's movie - which veers erratically between sugar-coated romance, broad farce, and risible melodrama - is too wrapped up in its convoluted plot to provide anything more than trifling insights.

"Le Divorce" is released in UK cinemas on Friday 19th September 2003.







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