out of 4
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Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4
Cultural differences are always amusing. Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Henry
James and Ben Franklin dwelled on them. So no wonder there's confusion when
Isabel (Kate Hudson) arrives in Paris from Santa Barbara, California, to help
her pregnant sister Roxy (Naomi Watts) whose philandering French husband
Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud) has just abandoned her. Amidst "community
property" negotiations and the complicated authentication of a valuable
painting, Isabel becomes involved with Charles-Henri's married uncle (Thierry
Lhermitte), a charming cad who customarily gives his new mistress a $18,000
Hermes handbag, nicknamed the "Kelly" for Grace Kelly who used to tote one, a
gesture noted by another expatriate American (Glenn Close).
Inspired by Diane Johnson's deft novel, writer/director James Ivory and
his longtime writing collaborator Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, delve into the American
habit of direct, blunt communication as opposed to the French penchant for
subtle indirection and amusement with the entanglements of infidelity.
"Everything is worse when the French are involved," observes Stephen Fry as a
British art appraiser. But there are too many subplots and too many extraneous
characters - both of which dilute this glossy, genteel, if clumsy, comedy of
manners. While Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing embody the girls' provincial
parents with Leslie Caron ("An American in Paris") as the calm, aristocratic
Gallic matriarch, Matthew Modine is inexplicably deranged as the distraught,
gun-toting American husband of Charles-Henri's current infatuation. On the
Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Le Divorce" is a serenely smart, sophisticated
7. Breaking up is hard to do in any language, even if you can afford to pay
$900 for a family luncheon.
Copyright © 2003 Susan Granger
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