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movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Governess

Starring: Minnie Driver, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Hilary Duff
Rated: R
RunTime: 114 Minutes
Release Date: July 1998
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Florence Hoath, Jonathan Rhys Myers, Harriet Walter, Arlene Cockburn

Review by Steve Rhodes
1½ stars out of 4

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 easily tolerates.

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

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