Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Painted Veil

OK, so here's why I apologize to Naomi Watts for ragging on her so much in the past. For threatening to take away her Mulholland Drive gold medal and give it to BFF Nicole Kidman for Moulin Rouge!, etc...

Because, for her efforts in The Painted Veil, she is back in my good graces. Naomi and I run very hot and cold, see. Hot: King Kong, Mulholland Dr, I Heart "ffffuckabees!" Cold: practically everything else 'cept maybe Tank Girl just for nostalgic 'I saw her first' reasons.


Turns out that The Painted Veil is pretty damn good. It's an adaptation of the W. Somerset Maugham novel of the same name which concerns the (very) unhappy marriage of Walter Fane, a bacterialogist, and his spoiled society wife Kitty Fane in 1920s England. The miserable couple travel to China to fight the cholera epidemic. If you're thinking 'hey, that sounds like a Merchant/Ivory plot where British people are transformed by leaving their country!' you'd be exactly right. It's decidedly of that genre. But, it's also a solid involving movie that doesn't trip itself up as much as The White Countess did last year in its busy third act.

Here's hoping director John Curran stays period because this romantic drama is a far more successful and less facile than his previous exploration of marital dischord, We Dont Live Here Anymore. It helps that Watts is terrific, she makes specific choices about her character work and underplays her character arc, making Kitty's various changes of heart feel more genuine than many a movie transformation. It also helps that her co-star Edward Norton seems far more invested in his character than he has in recent films (added bonus: This is the best he's ever looked onscreen). The movie is gorgeous, too --particularly the Oscar nomination worthy costumes from Ruth Myers and the freeze frameable beauty from The Piano's cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the score by Alexandre Desplat (of Birth reknown) is the best thing about it. I'm hoping this film provides him his first Oscar nomination rather than his less impressive work in the Queen, which is more likely to corral multiple Oscar nods.

I wish that the movie didn't hedge its bets about the audience intelligence in a couple of key sequences (yes, it does employ my least favorite filmic device: the flashback to something you'll remember instantly before the flashback even begins) but overall this is a sensuous well acted success. B+

The Painted Veil opens in NYC and LA on December 20th for Oscar eligibility. The rest of you will have to wait. 

29 comments:

richard said...

apology accepted on naomi's behalf.



richard

Goran said...

I'm similarly hot-and-cold on Naomi, but I did think she was excellent in We Don't Live Here Anymore (more so than she has been in anything other than Mulholland Dr), which I thought was a solid, absorbing exploration of a relationship breakdown (x2). I'm suprised it wasn't better received.

Goran said...

Ps. And she was infinitely better in Mulholland Dr than Kidman has been in anything. If there's an Actress medal for you to reconsider from 2001, it's that Silver one (I mean she couldn't sing OR dance OR act! At least Zellweger, who was much more bitched about the following year, could do one of the three).

Anonymous said...

I was already excited about this, but until now had no idea about Desplat's participation. Now I'm looking forward to it even more.

Ali said...

So does this mean that she is a contender in the FB category?

Ryan said...

yeah seriousley, you have me on edge... is she in the running for the FB awards or not???????!!!!!!!!

Jose said...

I love her and the film just got nominated in various Indie Spirit Awards. Is it actually indie?

Anonymous said...

The first thing I think of when you mention the 2001 FB award thing is that you also said you would take away McGregor's gold. That made me sad. :(

Sorry, a little off topic. The trailer for Painted Veil looks good to me, so I'm glad you liked it.

adam k. said...

I thought the Veil trailer was bad, but I guess it was just the trailer.

I too am hot and cold on Naomi. Glad she's being good again. So yeah, does this mean there's yet another contender for the FB awards?

And Ewan's gold being taken away makes me sad, too. His and Wilkinson's performances were just in such polar opposite styles, but I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed Wilkinson's more.

vince said...

The Veil trailer I just watched on the imdb was for the DVD? WTF?

Stephen G said...

Glad you liked it Nat. I read the book recently and very much enjoyed it. Maugham's 'Theatre', adapted into Being Julia, was also fun (must read some more Maugham!). Very much looking forward to this one (though no release date in Aus yet, boo hiss); the poster is gorgeous.

Anyone see the 1934 Garbo version, co-starring Herbert Marshall (The Letter, The Little Foxes, Foreign Correspondent etc etc)? Not bad, I thought, even with an altered ending from the book. Garbo's a bit fussy in the first half, but you really see her settle down and build a character by movie's end. Short and sweet at 85 mins too. Worth a look.

SamuraiFrog said...

This is the problem with adapting a novel that's been made before. I don't like Naomi Watts anyway, but presenting her as a reasonable substitute for Greta Garbo is just ridiculous.

DL said...

I've never been on bad terms with Naomi Watts. I've loved her or liked her very much in everything I've seen her in. (Yes, even The Ring and 21 Grams.)

And I'm really glad to hear she's reportedly great in this. :) What do you make of her Oscar hopes though?

NATHANIEL R said...

dl, i don't. the year is too competitive... and the movie is probably too old fashioned or at least too recent- fashion-not-currently-in-fashion (if you get me) to attract the necessary attention to burst through the very formidable brick wall of

streep-dench-mirren-bening-cruz-winslet

give or take 10 others...

Anonymous said...

Very glad to hear Desplat's work in THE PAINTED VEIL is impressive. I loved his music for THE QUEEN on the Milan album, though I've yet to see the film.

Kris said...

One of my favorite films of the year.

Arkaan said...

Nathaniel, I've gotta ask - why is Bening really that much of a threat? Her film did no business, didn't get rave reviews (what kept Winslet in 04 as a candidate, along with a weaker category); Benning herself doesn't appear to be all that well liked; the film itself is outside the academy's taste.... too many obstacles for a divisive actress to overcome, imo.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I really never saw this coming, tbh.

Glad to hear you liked Watts. I remember seeing her in the small amount of Brides of Christ that I've seen back in the early '90s! I've never thought she was "BAD" but the Ring and Kong perfs didn't excite me.

And, you're right. Ed Norton does looks quite dashing. At least in that image you posted.

Your reaction to this reminds me of your reaction to Pride & Prejudice last year.

Anonymous said...

Well you people are all talking about hot-and-cold on Naomi. Why Naomi and not:

Nicole Kidman (Practical Magic, Stepford Wives, Birth, Bewitched...)

Annette Bening (In Dreams, Love Affairs, Guilty by Suspicion, Regarding Henry...)

Cate Blanchett (Bandits, Heaven, Charlotte Gray, The Missing...)

Kate Winslet (Hideous Kinky, The Quills, Enigma, Life of David Gale...)

I'm cold all over.

NATHANIEL R said...

cold all over --funny.

yeah, most actors are hot and cold if you dig deep enough. Few though do such a seesaw on my affections. I can't speak for others but usually if I really love an actor I tend to forgive the bad performances rather than be too irritated by them.

daveylow said...

Ever since I saw the trailer, I've wanted to see this. The movie looks gorgeous in the trailer and now it sounds like it might actually be good. Interesting to hear that Norton looks better than ever--sometimes he can look dorky but I liked his transformation in American X. This sounds like a good role for Watts--I hope the film finds an audience. I just picked up the novel to read.

Giovanni Tagliaferri (aka Truman Burbank) said...

You really should listen to THE QUEEN score. It's an amazing score and it really deserves an Oscar mention. I didn't realize how good it was while watching the film, but when I bought the score (just because of Desplat doing that) I fell in love with it. Highly recommended!

Campaspe said...

Nathaniel, it's a brave actress who takes on a Garbo role, even at this late date, so I am curious to see this one. Also, "Edward Norton looks great" is one hell of a draw for me, as well. I think Watts is swell, and like you I tend to be tolerant of a favorite actor's flawed performances.

Anonymous said...

this movie was HORRIBLE. just to let you know. don't be fooled by the trailer. i was and it turned out horribly for me. what a waste of time. this movie took two hours out of my life. i could have spent that time doing something less boring. this movie makes you wonder when the hell it's going to end. no character development whatsoever. they focus too little time on major events of the movie. too much dialogue. that's basically what the movie is. talking, talking, talking. hardly any action at all. it's so boring. someone forgot to edit this movie in the editing room. i wouldn't see it if i were you. just a suggestion.

Anonymous said...

anyone know what the name of the song at the end of the trailer is or who the composer is? it doesn't seem to be on the soundtrack.

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Anonymous said...

the song on the trailer is from the last samurai soundtrack.

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