Le Divorce
Le Divorce

USA/France, 2003. Rated PG-13. 117 minutes.

Cast: Naomi Watts, Kate Hudson, Leslie Caron, Melvil Pupad, Thierry Lhermitte, Samuel Labarthe, Stockard Channing, Thomas Lennon, Sam Waterston, Glenn Close, Romain Duris, Jean-Marc Barr, Bebe Neuwirth, Stephen Fry, Matthew Modine
Writers: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and James Ivory, based on the novel by Diane Johnson
Original Music: Richard Robbins
Cinematography: Peter Lhomme
Producers: Ismail Merchant, Michael Schiffer
Director: James Ivory


Grade: C Review by Claudia Smurthwaite

Based on the previews and not having read the book, this film seems misnamed. Divorce? It looks like a romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson as Isabel, an American in Paris looking for love—or at least a lover. But romantic comedies are supposed to be funny and romantic, and Le Divorce is neither.

The divorce—yes, there is one—is between Hudson and WattsIsabel's pregnant sister Roxanne (Naomi Watts), an aspiring poet, and her French husband, painter Henri-Charles. Not exactly the stuff of comedy. A dramedy, perhaps? Not so much. Le Divorce can't really make up its mind. Are we supposed to cheer when Isabel becomes someone's mistress? (So much for independent women.) Cry when Roxy can't cope with her situation? Boo and hiss at the French and their disdain for Americans? The most interesting subplot is that of Roxy's mysterious St. Ursula painting, a garage sale find passed down to the girls' father. Complicating the division of property is the matter of who owns the painting and the possibility that it is the work of 17th Century French painter Georges La Tour.

Other than the country house of Henri-Charles's mother (played by the wonderful Leslie Caron), James Ivory manages to make France, and Paris in particular look exceptionally unromantic. The fine supporting cast—Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing as Isabel and Roxanne's parents, Glenn Close, Bebe Neuwirth, and Matthew Modine (whose character turns out to be quite different than the previews make him out to be)—can't make sense of the muddle. The aforementioned Caron, who makes so few movies these days, is done a disservice by the script. Is she an overindulgent mother or a French cliché?

The opening titles are clever and, graphically, the simple closing credits were eye-catching—faint praise, I know. I enjoy romantic comedies as much as most, if not more, but Le Divorce is not a sweet French pastry, but more like a soggy french fry.

Review © August 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2003 Fox Searchlight Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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