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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 125 Minutes
o Available Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
o Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
o Theatrical. Fucking. Trailer.
It’s like the 1934 film adaptation of The Painted Veil. But in 2006.
Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Liev Schrieber (or, Live Schrieber if you’re spellcheck), Toby Jones, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
The Mr. and Mrs. TB guy wedding reception was kind of a bummer.
There’s some fuckin’ cholera, alright? And this dude totally takes his girl (who was fuckin’ the guy from Scream 3) into the epidemic to teach her a lesson about bonin’ other dudes. But then they see all these foreign people spewing shit from their mouth and ass and they learn to care for one another. That’s the power of love. In all honesty, it’s like Knocked Up, but instead of a budding relationship post-insemination, it’s post-marriage.
"No Ed, seriously. You’re signed on to play the Hulk."
The problem that plagues most movies made in the style of the old Hollywood epic is the same as that which they try to emulate: it’s too busy trying to be everything to everyone (dramatic, humorous, political, romantic) that it ends up being unable to connect on any of those levels and comes off as an exercise in Jabba the Hutt-esque bloat, eventually strangled by the Princess Leia that was its ambition*. If you succeed at fitting all of those things in, you’re Casablanca. If not, you’re pretty much everything else. The Painted Veil isn’t a failure and it doesn’t suffer from tonal schizophrenia, but the elements never congeal to make a truly satisfying end product.
Baby Handnipples was off the market just as quickly as it appeared. The black market.
As would be expected, Norton delivers the goods with his character. It’s underplayed for the most part, with the character keeping most of his emotion bottled within (he’s busy making Norton Antivirus for the townspeople) and only letting it out in little spurts. The little bit of physical comedy performed by him throughout was a pleasant surprise. Watts comes off a little flatter that Norton, almost too measured when it could be a little bit bigger given the circumstances. Toby Jones delivers in a supporting role as does Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Colonel Yu, adding some life to the picture.
The film’s honest-to-god beautiful throughout, though. The beautiful panoramic shots of the Chinese countryside as our characters drift along a river or march through a field are gorgeous and scope-delivering, kudos go out to cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh for capturing such sumptuous imagery on film. However, the film never really clicks until the latter portions of the film where it makes a gallant comeback to be slightly emotionally resonant, but not enough to consider it a very good movie by any means. While it does try to be everything to the viewer, and it doesn’t really do any of those things particularly badly so much as to become tonally inconsistent, it still comes off slightly flat. It’s just that all of the elements crowd the picture and suffocate of it of any liveliness. By giving time to all of these different facets, the film sort of loses itself for long stretches of time, becoming acceptable but un-compelling cinema. While the bits of humor add levity to a film that would’ve become leaden and over-wrought without them, they don’t do enough to make the film a fully operable whole. They don’t go so far as to make the film feel slight either, but the whole thing feels like a trifle, which I really doubt was the aim of the director, writer, actors or the major league baseball roster of producers going into the project.
In some circles this would be considered the money shot.
So while I can’t reject the movie heartily, I can’t strongly suggest it either. Perhaps one day in the future when it’s on pay cable you’ll come across it and find it to be an entertaining and welcome diversion. Hell, that will probably happen to me. However, it’s not the type of film that demanded being made (one can’t imagine anyone feeling this project had to be done, as that type of passion isn’t evident in the final product itself), nor being seen. Worthwhile if you’re a cinematography whore or Edward Norton completist, otherwise don’t seek it out.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never Liev!
The cover is balls, but I think star-power is the only way you’re going to wrangle people into watching a W. Somerset Maugham adaptation surrounding a cholera epidemic, so I understand their stance in this instance. The tagline (Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people) is actually quite good. The anamorphic widescreen does a good job complementing one of the films stronger suits, which is the beautiful Chinese landscapes on display throughout the picture. For extras, you get a theatrical trailer which I’m sure attracted -.043 people to see this picture while it was in theaters. There are also some trailers that play before the main menu, of which you’ll probably be compelled to make like Tim Bisley and skip to the end.
*As poetic as this review will get, promise.