Le Divorce Reviews
[b][color=yellow]Le Divorce (2003)[/color][/b]
[color=yellow]I've read a couple of Diane Johnson's books and this story follows her usual formula; blond heroine is torn between two very different love interests, the moral complexities of adultery, differences between French and American cultures, the Americans are typically in France to broaden their cultural horizons, an intrigue involving art. It was good to see Romain Duris again from L'Auberge Espagnole (great movie!). He plays Yves, Kate Hudson's other love interest.[/color]
[color=yellow]Le Divorce, the film, unfortunately doesn't quite hit the mark. Perhaps the book's [very] slow character development doesn't translate well into film. It's still a good movie but with a better screenplay, better casting and direction, it could have been a lot better. Merchant Ivory are supposed to be good at "cultural" films but I think that a different director skilled with ensemble casts (Robert Altman is a good example-see Prêt-à-Porter) could possibly have done more with the material. [/color]
[color=yellow]There are two specific situations in the movie that irk me; Matthew Modine's small part of jilted husband - he turns from slightly annoying man badgering the jilted wife and sister of jilted wife into psycho killer with no indication or build up to this event. Also Naomi Watts' character goes from bewildered abandoned wife who nonetheless continues to entertain her visiting sibling, to a sudden suicide attempt. In real life each character would have displayed a number of small signs or expressed escalating emotional states to forewarn these events, but in the film we barely see any distress from the characters to make the leap credible. [/color]
This is a film that has too much going on, except none of it is interesting. We're overloaded with information that we don't want to take in. I started drifting about 30 minutes in, after I realized that the plot wasn't going to resolve itself anytime soon, and at the two hour point, when the credits finally began to roll, I had to try to make sense of what I just watched. It's not that it's overly complex, but since I didn't care, I found it excruciatingly difficult to pay attention to everything that the film vomits our direction.
From what I could make out, there are two main plots, and then a ton of subplots. The first involves Roxy (Naomi Watts) being left by her husband (Melvil Poupaud). He loves some Russian girl who gets maybe 5 lines of dialogue throughout, but the reasoning doesn't matter. He's leaving his pregnant wife, and is bringing lawyers into the mix because he wants half of the things he's entitled to. The prized possession is a painting that everyone spends an awful long time trying to determine whether it was painted by some famous artist.
The second plot involves Roxy's sister, Isabel (Kate Hudson), who shows up in Paris just as Roxy's husband is leaving. She's there to take care of Roxy, she says at one point, but she spends such little time doing so that one could be mistaken for thinking she's there just to go shopping and walk around the city. She eventually becomes the mistress for Roxy's husband's uncle, Edgar (Thierry Lhermitte), or at least, I think that's what his relation was in regards to everyone else in the film. Otherwise, I'm unsure, because he just kind of shows up at one point, and then Isabel has his number. Like I said, I was definitely drifting by this point.
There are subplots abound, although none of them mattered much to me. The Russian girl's husband is American, and he appears every now and then to cause havoc. We first meet him as he steals Isabel's umbrella, and we last see him on the Eifel Tower, apologizing and claiming that he needs a therapist. No, I don't consider that spoiling anything, because I haven't given you the reason he's apologizing, or why it means anything to the plot. This part, I did understand, considering he does something, on a whim, that sane people would view as wrong. None of the characters react negatively afterward, save for the scene it happens in.
There are other subplots too, like how Roxy's husband's family are fake, or bad, or something, and eventually we meet Roxy and Isabel's family as well, because we needed even more characters to lose track of. No events seem to lead into the other, with individual scenes seemingly having little to do with the other ones. Individual scenes in this film do work, although without a connection between them or a reason to care, the film itself never comes together.
Oh, another subplot involves an American writer, Olivia (Glenn Close), who also, at one point, had an affair with Edgar. But we meet her before meeting Edgar, and she seems to be friends with Roxy. I guess we're just supposed to assume that coincidence allows this to be, but without any payoff in her storyline, I must question her inclusion. She does nothing but sit and talk with characters, and the relationship with Edgar doesn't even factor in. There's too much going on, and I did not care about any of it.
Anyone going into this film expecting a nice romantic comedy is going to be disappointed; it fails in both aspects. It is not once funny, and it is only sporadically romantic -- if you can call affairs, mistresses and divorce "romantic." It may have been advertised as a funny, gentle romance film, but the ads are misleading. Instead, it wants to show us how the American and French cultures are so different from one another, but apart from a couple of situations and a few lines of dialogue, it fails to do even this.
What's worst of all is that because there are so many plots that need to be tied up (most of them are, even if a couple are not), Le Divorce ends up taking up two hours of your life. I didn't care about a single thing in this film, and it wants to make me spend two hours watching it struggle to do anything of importance, significance or interest. It ends up just wasting a ton of time meandering around because it feels the need to draw out a plot that should take 90 minutes maximum to finish, and then it ends abruptly and without much closure.
Le Divorce is a horrible film, devoid of life, joy, romance, wit, and a point. It needed to be trimmed down by at least 30 minutes, it needed to remove most of its trivial and needles subplots, and it needed characters we cared about. If it tried to do anything, it tried to contrast the American and French societies. But if that's what it goal was, it needed to actually mention that more than a few times throughout, and have the characters experience that idea instead of having random people mention it offhand. This is a worthless film that wasted (what felt like 4) hours of my life.