France is great. It’s a beautiful country with a long, rich history (God that is a dull thing to say, no matter how true). The food is great (duh), the wine is great (duh), and their influence on literature and film is immeasurable. The American stereotype of the French as rude snobs is stupid, Xenophobic, and mostly unfounded (although it is true that in Paris sometimes they are a bit rough around their polished edges). Remember Freedom Fries? We are the ones who looked rude and ridiculous in that exchange. But perhaps even worse than the American who dismissively categorizes France as a cheese-scented land of haughty Communists is the American who falls in love with France, and pretends to have discovered it all on their own. There is nothing more grating to my ears than hearing someone say that they went to Au Bon Pain for a croissant and pronouncing everything with a college-junior’s-summer-Eurorail accent.
Now imagine them going into Au Bon Pain and ordering croissants for two hours!
Le Divorce is about how Kate Hudson goes to visit her sister, Naomi Watts, who is living with her husband and daughter in Paris and is pregnant with another child. Just as Kate Hudson is arriving, Naomi Watts’s husband is leaving her. He has taken up with a Russian woman, who herself is married to Matthew Modine. Kate Hudson decides to stay in Paris for awhile and help her sister through this difficult time, at which point she starts having an affair with the older uncle of Naomi Watts’s estranged husband. The whole movie is, for the most part, a love letter to Paris, France, handbags, expensive art, and having affairs. Naomi Watts has a painting in her apartment that is a family heirloom but suddenly becomes a disputed item in the divorce proceedings because it turns out that it might be very valuable. How could her husband try and take that from her, when it was clearly not his? Kate Hudson’s powerful, rich, older lover gives her an expensive Hermes handbag, which he gives to all of his mistresses, and everyone is like “how could she wear that handbag around?” Everything comes together in an exciting climax when Matthew Modine shoots his wife, kills Naomi Watts’s estranged husband, attacks everyone on the Eiffel Tower (ooh la la!), and then Kate Hudson throws her handbag over the side and it floats over Paris (HUH?). The good news, excuse me, GREAT news is that with Naomi Watts’s estranged husband out of the way, they are able to auction the painting off and it sells for a billion dollars. Oh thank God. I was worried for a second that the painting would sell for less than a billion dollars.
There are some things about this movie that are obviously not very good. Like Naomi Watts speaking with the accent of an American speaking with a French accent. Yikes. You could replace all her dialogue with an overdub of Heidi Klum reading a copy of The Little Prince that you translated with BabelFish and it would probably sound more convincing. And then there’s the whole issue of Kate Hudson’s inability to render human emotion. Something to do with the amount of plastic in her face creating inverse sine waves that cancel out the visible humanoid responses. Also it is slow and boring, but it’s a Merchant Ivory film, so what do you expect? Would you tell the stars not to shine so slow and boring? Would you tell the rain not to be so obsessed with the doings of the modern (and the ancient) bourgeoise?
And also shit like this:
But the reality of this movie is that to condemn it, and it is very condemnable, has less to do with the content of the movie (its lighting, its costumes, its stupid plot, its focus on the social differences between this and that upper-middle-class) and much more to do with the audience for which this movie is intended. It’s not so much that Le Divorce is a terrible movie as it is that people who would like Le Divorce are terrible people.
Look, I recognize that life is hard for everyone. Just because some of us are literally starving to death and some of us get left by our husbands for another woman doesn’t make anyone’s individual pain less acute. But, like, Naomi Watts’s character is a poet? Who doesn’t have a job? And just lives in her beautiful apartment in Paris having her painting assessed by museums? BOO HOO, I’M SURE. At one point in the movie, one of the characters says “French women are incredible. I’m thinking of writing a little book about them. Their scarves alone could be a chapter.” At another point in the movie Naomi Watts says, “I can’t believe this. I’m in a novel by Balzac.” Now, obviously there are some movies that intentionally test the limits of one’s ability to retain barf, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Someone in the world sees something like that and laughs daintily into their hand as they brush biscotti crumbs off their ascot. And that is the thing that is upsetting. The world is a big place with room enough for all kinds, but maybe it should be a slightly smaller place with a few less kinds, you know what I mean? This lady knows what I mean:
Looking good, girl! The revolution will come in 16 colors and all sizes, free shipping on orders over $75.
I’m glad to see Thomas Lennon getting work, even if he is being completely wasted. Work is work. But it’s like the French say, trop little trop late. Personally, I don’t happen to be particularly interested in the romantic deceptions of modestly wealthy expatriates or the subtle differences between French and Northern Californian dinner parties (in America, we keep our champagne on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, and in France they keep their champagne laying on its side on the middle shelf!). I don’t particularly care about the lives of unsuccessful poets who don’t need to be successful, or the sexual dalliances of their emotionally retarded (that might be Kate Hudson though, and not the character), equally unambitious siblings. I’ve got no sympathy for the economic headaches of people without real economic headaches, or how the Louvre goes about determining the value of paintings, or flying handbags. Maybe that is just me.
But dear God, I hope it is not just me.
Next week: A short break. Two weeks: Beowulf. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.