The White Countess

2005

The White Countess (2005)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: High production values and fine performances get bogged down by a lifeless story that fails to engage the viewer.

AUDIENCE SCORE


Want to See

Not Interested

Add Rating
My Rating    

The White Countess Photos

Movie Info

After losing his wife, daughter, and eyesight in the violent political unrest of 1930s Shanghai, former diplomat Todd Jackson (Ralph Fiennes) develops an obsession with creating the perfect, most comfortable and elegant bar. As he explores seedy dives, searching for the one he could convert, he meets a White Russian refugee (Natasha Richardson) who was once a countess but now works as a taxi driver and sometimes prostitute in order to support her late husband's family. Todd takes her on as a partner and names the bar The White Countess, though he does not know where his dealings with the shadowy woman will lead.

Watch it now

Cast

Critic Reviews for The White Countess

All Critics (90) | Top Critics (31)

Ishiguro is a wonderful novelist, but perhaps not a natural-born screenwriter. The White Countess feels schematic and dramatically inert. Ivory, for all the acting talent at his disposal, finds plenty of style in prewar Shanghai, but its pulse eludes him.

Mar 13, 2018 | Full Review…
Newsweek
Top Critic

It's a pretty journey, even if it is far too talky and emotionally distant to really work.

Feb 10, 2006 | Rating: 3/5

A tale well told, a look at history in the making and those being shaken in the process.

Feb 3, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

A tedious, overblown bit of business.

Feb 3, 2006 | Rating: 2/4

... The White Countess is so bloodless it all but cries for a transfusion.

Jan 27, 2006 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

The White Countess, although it has its share of Masterpiece Theatre moments, is another film to remind us just how cosmopolitan is the Merchant-Ivory filmography.

Jan 27, 2006 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for The White Countess

A blind American diplomat and a exiled Russian countess join forces to build a jazz nightclub in Shanghai in the period leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War. Typical of a Merchant/Ivory production, the set and costume design is lush and colorful, a work of art by itself. But also typical of their work, there is an awful lot of talk; in fact, most of the conflict in this film takes place in the past, the characters revealing tortured bits about themselves rather than the suspense created from watching conflict happen. The only scenes in which this flaw is not true are in the third act, far too late. The highlights of the film are the performances by the brooding Ralph Fiennes and the glamorous Natasha Richardson. Both actors create sharp characters, and they make the too-talky exposition compelling just by their presence. I think that many American audiences, many of whom haven't been exposed to Chinese history, will get lost, unable to place the political turmoil that backdrops the film's action. The White Countess is set in that odd time between the wars, and there are few clues to ground the setting. What is more, many Americans may not realize what a diverse, bustling metropolis Shanghai was at this time and why it is conceivable that the Russian aristocracy would be exiled there. Hopefully this film is an impetus to pick up a history book or two (if you actually go beyond Wikipedia, I recommend The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave). Overall, The White Countess is by no means a great film, but it has a lot to offer for the right audience.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

½

So there I was sittin on the couch scrolling through the guide when I see Ralph Fiennes. Automatically I hit record. I had barley any Idea wht this movie would be about. but, It had Ralph Fiennes and Jazz. Surpirse Surpirse, I LOOOVED IT!! Fiennes is without a doubt one of our greatest actros of the century! I cannot believe that He has yet to win an Oscar. I was kind hoping from more romance between Ralph and Natasha Richardson (Who was amazing as well) but thats ok, Such a great movie with some very good performances!

Morgan Salem
Morgan Salem

Super Reviewer

½

Great cast, dull execution

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

½

[font=Century Gothic]"The White Countess" is set in Shanghai in 1936. Todd Jackson(Ralph Fiennes) is a former American diplomat blinded in an accident. During one particular bar crawl, he confides in a Japanese acquaintance, Matsuda(Hiroyuki Sanada), his dreams of owning his own bar. Jackson does not have the money for this purchase but considers making a very risky wager at the racetrack. Before Jackson is about to go home for the night, Sofia(Natasha Richardson) prevents two villains from mugging him and gains his gratitude. (She is a former Russian countess who has been a refugee after the 1917 Russian Revolution and dreams of the good old days. She works as a taxi dancer to support her extended family which includes her daughter. Nobody is thrilled with her profession, even though she seems to be the only breadwinner.) [/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic]"The White Countess" has all of the elements of a good movie including an intriguing setting and a great cast(including yet another fine performance from Ralph Fiennes who has the only memorable moment in the movie) but is done in by a lack a believability in key events and severe overlength. Overall, the movie comes off flat. Plus, the Redgrave sisters are large distractions. [/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font] [font=Century Gothic][/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

The White Countess Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features