[MOVIE REVIEW]‘Divorce’ looks posh, but it’s not real leather“Le Divorce” is promoted as a posh romantic comedy, as posh as the red Kelly bag that its heroine carries everywhere. The fact that James Ivory, a three-time Academy Award nominee (“The Remains of the Day,” “Howards End” and “A Room with a View”), is the director boosts your expectations. But when you open the lid of this ritzy crocodile leather bag ― alas! A tag that says “Made in China” greets you.
Isabel (Kate Hudson), a young, hip California girl, has come to Paris to help her half-sister Roxeanne (Naomi Watts), a poet who’s going through a painful divorce. Her husband, French artist Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud), has walked out on her for a Russian woman, who’s also married.
Instead of putting her energy into supporting her beleaguered sister, Isabel ventures out to enjoy joie de vivre in Paris. Her method? Having an affair with a right-wing politician, Edgar (Thierry Lhermitte), who is at least twice her age and married, and who happens to be the uncle of her sister’s husband.
Why Isabel falls for Edgar is never made clear. Maybe the present-day setting has dulled the sensitivities of the Merchant-Ivory team, which is more accustomed to period films (Ivory’s producer partner, Ismail Merchant, is on board here). Isabel is supposed to be a naive American girl to be commiserated with as she learns about a bitter part of life, but she comes off as just a tacky chick. After having fun with the old man, sporting the Kelly bag he gave her to various fashionable places, Isabel gets hurt when he tries to end what turns out to be just one of many, many, many affairs. Paired with her rueful sister, who slits her wrist while pregnant, these two easily fit that banal, annoying I-am-nothing-without-love stereotype of women. The talented Naomi Watts, who was powerful in films like “Muholland Drive,” is trapped in a drab role that helps drag down a story that’s supposed to be as flashy, cheerful and sparkling as Ms. Hudson’s eyes.
The movie is already lost in Paris when it suddenly transforms into a psycho-thriller, as the stalker husband (Matthew Modine) of Charles-Henri’s Russian mistress gets a gun and chases Isabel and her family.
As a comedy of manners and taste, “Le Divorce” goes about as deep as the fact that Isabel, thanks to her affair with Edgar, can read the French words on the menu when her family arrives in France. Even bringing an entire American family into Gallic territory, on a mission to defend Roxeanne against Charles-Henri’s tough family, who have their eyes on a potentially valuable painting that Roxeanne brought when she got married, the film fails to capitalize on the cultural collision between the Americans and the French, or to reveal the true charms of the city of sophistication where it is set.
by Kim Hyo-jin