Inert from its opening moments to its too-long-delayed close, this lackluster production is an example of international filmmaking at its least attractive, and a misstep in the careers of pretty much everyone involved.
This is really quite an achievement. It brings together Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, and Vanessa Redgrave and insures that, without exception, they all give their worst performances ever.
Just as the characters' motivations are mostly crude rather than complex, and the view of class politics superficial and romantic rather than acute or intelligent, so is the film's treatment of the novel's magical realism on the mundane side.
It does take daring chances with a book that could not have been adapted otherwise, using extraordinary actors to rise above its occasional lapses. The lack of fidelity is often offset by intelligence of a subtler kind.