The White Countess (2005) - Rotten Tomatoes

The White Countess (2005)



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

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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.

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Ralph Fiennes
as Todd Jackson
Natasha Richardson
as Countess Sofia Belinsky
John Wood
as Uncle Peter
Dan Herzberg
as Frenchman
Jean-Pierre Lorit
as Antoine Jacquier
Lee Pace
as Crane
Pierre Seznec
as Russian Singer
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Critic Reviews for The White Countess

All Critics (88) | Top Critics (18)

Despite its brilliant evocation of this great city at this most provocative time in history, the movie just gets sillier and sillier.

January 20, 2006 | Full Review…
Washington Post
Top Critic

Political intrigue, the thriving jazz-era nightclub scene and the breakdown of the class system within a city in turmoil should have yielded more engaging scenarios.

January 14, 2006 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
Toronto Star
Top Critic

This is Merchant-Ivory's kind of showmanship, the unflashy adult variety of movie magic that they made their hallmark.

January 13, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

This last Merchant/Ivory film feels like a thin apparition of the team's best films -- similarly static but less substantial, less palpable, and sadly less respectable, just the vestigial remains of a better day.

January 13, 2006 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

As the last film from the legendary team of Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant, who died in May, The White Countess is a stirring tribute to Merchant, a true builder of dreams in an industry now sorely bereft of his unique spirit.

January 6, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

It's a pleasure to report that their swan song, written by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a gilded-canvas work of graceful and touching skill.

January 4, 2006 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

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


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


Great cast, dull execution

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

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