Projections - Movie Reviews

Le Divorce

Le Divorce

The Ismail Merchant/James Ivory producing/directing duo offers up an amusing comedy with a dark side called Le Divorce which underlines the cultural divide between France and the U.S.

Two blondes, the central figures, are well crafted by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala from the popular 1997 novel by Diane Johnson.  Kate Hudson is Isabel and Isabel's stepsister is Roxy, a luminous Naomi Watts.  Hudson has what it takes to be a fulcrum in a movie that is much lighter in tone than Merchant/Ivory's more revered art-house pictures, The Remains of the Day and Howard's End.

The spunky Isabel goes from home in Santa Barbara to Paris to help Roxy, a poet.  Her lout of a hubby Charles-Henri (Melvin Poupaud) has abandoned the pregnant Roxy with a daughter, while shacking up with another woman.

Troubles for Roxy, acted by Watts (The Ring) with varying degrees of emotion, come from Suzanne, the hard-nosed mother of Charles-Henri, done with malevolent wit by Leslie Caron.  Roxy doesn't want to be divorced, but the French legal brass does not appear to be on her side, especially when it concerns a painting she brought to Paris possibly valued at over six figures.  The parents of Isabel and Roxy (Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing) are soon flying in as the custody battle escalates when their expecting daughter nearly goes off the deep end.

The way Ivory orchestrates the action with the appeal of Hudson and Watts may invite more mainstream interest than expected.  Maybe Ivory, who collaborated with Jhabvala on the tangy screenplay, sticks too close to Johnson's wonderful tale in having Matthew Modine's entertainment attorney important to the film's key plot turn as he stalks Roxy.  Though a climactic, violent scene on the Eiffel Tower stirs up Le Divorce more than it should, Merchant and Ivory are able to make this comedy charming and intelligent.

Le Divorce

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