Release Date: July 14th, 2006 (IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by IFC Films.
The Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory, Claudia Coli, Thierry Hancisse, Chantal Neuwirth.
Directed by Patrice Chéreau.
In French with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: Everything changes between a wealthy, married couple when the wife, Gabrielle (Huppert) leaves a farewell letter to her husband, Jean (Greggory). Based on the novel The Return by Joseph Conrad.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Set in the 19th Century, this period piece has plenty of visual style, but it suffers from a weak story and boring characters. Gabrielle leaves her husband for a younger man after an extravagant dinner party and, soon after, returns to him. Both husband and wife bicker back and forth which is interesting to watch at first, but it quickly becomes tedious and unimaginative. Isabelle Huppert does give a strong performance, but co-writers Patrice Chéreau and Anne-Louise Trividic don’t do a good job of making her character complex and believable. As a play, this would have worked very well, especially given the excessive dialogue which includes some sleep-inducing monologues. On a positive note, the costume design, set design, lighting and editing all give an authentic feel for the time period. If only the plot and characters were just as lively and engaging. Gabrielle often drags at a running time of ninety minutes, which feels more like over two hours.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Weak plot and dull characters.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 8
IN A NUTSHELL: Visually stylish, but lacks an involving plot and interesting characters.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: TV
The "G" Menu