The White Countess (2005) - James Ivory
Well another Merchant Ivory film is upon us, but this one is special, because it will be the last, due to the death of producer Ishmail Merchant. The film has much familiarity to it. The wonderful period design, the script by Remains of the Day author Kazuo Ishiguro, the apperance of not one, two, but three Redgraves, and of course Ralph Fiennes who seems to be in everything this time of year.
That said, I'd like to point out that I found the film disappointing. As a piece of production it is fantastic, the acting is to notch as well. I noticed 15 minutes into the film that Fiennes didn't have his distinct British accent, then they pointed out that his character was American, so bravo for pulling that off without even needing to be told. Natasha Richardson as well is in top form, and delivers one of the best performances of the year, for an actress at least. Yet something is lacking, and it's story.
There are too many familiarities that it seems like they're just coasting. There are subtle class differences and hidden emotions, but it just seems boring. The humor is few and far between, whereas Room With a View managed to reach much higher hieghts. Part of the problem is that the film doesn't seem to have a real center. Ralph Fiennes Mr. Jackson is seen scarcely and we never really get a chance to see him in his home, only a glimpse or two of him leaving.
Richardson's Countess Sofia has a family that should be instituionalized, or at least given a pass to ride the short bus if you know what I mean. They're all crazy, but whereas her life away from the White Countess is shown to a great extent, Jackson is not given equal treatment, this is a critical inbalance I believe. Plus there are few if any likeable characters in the film. The only person that seems downright good is the Jewish tailor, and he certainly doesn't do much more than support.
As a set piece, and a piece of film history, being the final film of this great team, it would be worth checking out, but don't be suckered in with little details and good reviews, the film is not much better than average.