Rated: PG-13 for some mature sexual situations, partial nudity, disturbing images and brief drug content Reviewed by: Jim Release date: January 5, 2007 Released by: Warner Brothers
This highly polished adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham takes place in 1925 China.
The Painted Veil may have trouble connecting to a mainstream audience in spite of the solid efforts of Edward Norton (The Illusionist) and Naomi Watts (King Kong).
Norton is a bacteriologist, Walter Fane, and Watts is his petulant wife Kitty. She's from London and pampered by doting parents into marriage, relocating to Shanghai to stray from her family.
Kitty will stray from Walter into an illicit affair with an unctuous foreign serviceman (Liev Schreiber).
A wounded Walter, also a bit awkward, puts Kitty on the spot to have her come with him to a distant part of China where cholera has grown to large epidemic proportions.
The very upset Kitty acquiesces and things prove to be a struggle in China. Ron Nysaner, writer of Philadelphia, tries to modernize a pallid scenario utilizing a sagely figure (Diana Rigg) who might be able to set Kitty on brighter spiritual plane.
Supporting characters also include a Chinese army colonel (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and a more involving Toby Jones as the philandering colonial commissioner Waddington.
The production values are of a high quality under the direction of John Curran who earlier worked with Watts in the adulterous drama We Don't Live Here Anymore. Sumptuous lensing is of postcard variety and the emotional content is felt from a very creative score by Alexandre Desplat.
Norton and, especially, Watts do a lot with spare dialogue to display their characters inner anguish from betrayal, yet The Painted Veil could have benefitted more from crisper editing and an ending that seems more Hollywood as Maugham is an author perhaps hardly the easiest to translate to screen.
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