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Dangerous Beauty

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Dangerous Beauty

Starring: Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell
Director: Marshall Herskovitz
Rated: R
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: February 1998
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Jacqueline Bisset, Oliver Platt, Moira Kelly, Fred Ward, Naomi Watts, Jeroen Krabbe, Joanna Cassidy

Review by Greg King
2 stars out of 4

In overseas markets, A Destiny Of Her Own is also known as Dangerous Beauty, a stronger and far more appropriate title.

This elaborate historical melodrama is set in the decadent Venice of the late 16th century, when women were still treated as second class citizens. Only the courtesans, in essence highly paid hookers, were well read and educated. They were also permitted access to areas, such as libraries, normally off limits to ordinary women. In the bedroom, the courtesans had the ear of kings, bishops and many of the wealthiest and most powerful men in society, and often influenced policy decisions. "A courtesan is a force of nature, cloaked in civility," explains Jacqueline Bissett.

This glossy, visually sumptuous period piece looks at the life and fortunes of Veronica Franco (Catherine McCormack, from Braveheart, etc), one of the most famous of Venice's courtesans. Although Veronica is in love with the handsome Marco Vernier (Rufus Sewell), she cannot marry him because she is below his noble station. His parents have arranged a more fitting marriage, for the good of the family fortune and the stability of Venice, of course. Veronica's mother (Bissett), a former courtesan herself, trains her in the bedroom skills that will enable her to enter this hypocritical male-dominated world and have access to a life style that would normally have been denied her. There's plenty of wit, sex, nudity, scandal and courtly intrigue in this bawdy, spirited, overdone yet moderately entertaining costume drama. Not content to explore the lot of the beautiful heroine, writer Jeannine Dominy also throws the plague, the inquisition, and a witchcraft trial into the busy drama. Somehow, A Destiny Of Her Own tends to lose focus towards the end.

The film has a beautiful chocolate box quality, thanks to Czech cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, who gives the film a glossy surface. The costumes, impressive set design and gorgeous locations also add to the rich texture, and bring the period to life. However, the computer generated recreation of 16th century Venice becomes a little obvious on the big screen. Director Marshall Herskovitz hails from a background in television drama (thirtysomething, Family), and his direction here becomes a little pedestrian and betrays his origins.

The cast throw themselves into this period romp with a sense of abandon that adds energy to proceedings. McCormack brings a contemporary flavour to her role as the feisty, intelligent heroine. In a rare screen appearance, Bissett brings a touch of class to her role as her sympathetic mother. Sewell is good as the brooding aristocratic Marco, while the very busy Oliver Platt (The Impostors, Bulworth, etc) provides some humour as the quick witted court poet Maffio with whom Veronica has some entertaining clashes. Veterans Jeroen Krabbe, Fred Ward and Joanna Cassidy are wasted in undemanding, throwaway roles.

Copyright 1998 Greg King

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