Writer and director Sandra Goldbacher's THE GOVERNESS is a movie
all dressed up with no place to go. It knows it wants to be an
atmospheric costume drama that feels as fresh as the latest "Masterpiece
Theater" series. What it lacks is a compelling story to tell. And when
it finally gets to some "madness, sinful madness," the incidents feel
forced and unnatural.
The talented Minnie Driver plays Rosina, a young Jewish woman whose
father dies in the beginning of the picture. In order to stop being a
burden on her mother, who is left saddled with her husband's
considerable debts, Rosina decides to leave the big city she loves to
venture off to the remote Isle of Skye in Scotland to be a governess.
Rosina, for reasons never adequately explained, hides her religion.
Posing as a devote Christian, she nevertheless shudders to see all of
the crucifixes in her new household. The idea of a man with nails
through his hands and feet hanging over her head is not something she
Most of the characters in this somniferous tale are not well drawn.
Tom Wilkinson from THE FULL MONTY plays Rosina's new employer,
Cavendish. An early photography experimenter, he finds that Rosina
provides the key help he needs to solve his scientific problem.
Rosina becomes more than just Cavendish's secret scientific
colleague. They become lovers in a bit of never very credible
chemistry. (She describes his wife as having a "lemon up her
posterior," supposedly to justify her own subsequent behavior.) She
ends up taking nude pictures of Cavendish, which she uses for shock
value when it suits her purpose.
Edward Shearmur's music for the film is wonderfully dark and
mysterious - a quality the lifeless picture rarely obtains. The average
"Masterpiece Theater" episode is much livelier and certainly preferable
to THE GOVERNESS.
THE GOVERNESS runs 1:54. It is rated R for sex and nudity and
would be fine for older teenagers.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes