Director: Neil Jordan
Year Released: 1999
Neil Jordan's film adaptation of the Graham Greene novel is - by far - one of the worst films of the year. It's 'supposed' to be an English Patient-esque story of forbidden love and such, but it simply and truly does not work. First off, the 'love' that exists between the Ralph Fiennes character and the Julianne Moore character is never developed - the moment they meet at a dinner party, it's as if they 'magically' become obsessed with each other. I have never heard of this in real life, and it certainly doesn't play well on the screen. Second, and I hate to say this, but Julianne Moore is simply horrible in her role. She was great in Short Cuts and Boogie Nights and Magnolia, but here she comes off as cold, ineffectual and uninteresting (her British accent is incredibly weak). Moore doesn't deliver the lines with the inner intensity she did in the aforementioned films (see the drugstore scene in Magnolia or the infamous bottomless scene in Short Cuts for clear examples of her potential) and she never struck me as being as mysterious or as interesting as she was designed to be. Third, for the sex scenes. Neil Jordan makes the (all-too-common) mistake of misinterpreting 'sex' as 'love.' Showing Moore naked for a good amount of time is not titillating and doesn't 'explain' anything. Every meeting between Fiennes and her ends up in the two having sex, and these sex scenes are neither (a.) passionate or (b.) necessary. Don't people understand that you can show two people being genuinely fascinated and absorbed in each other without intercourse (and, speaking of intercourse, am I out of line in being a little bewildered as to how Moore's character can have a vaginal orgasm in, like, 45 seconds? Where can I meet women like this?). Fourth, the narrative structure. Without going into too much detail, it's clear that Jordan is telling a straight-forward story, even though he tries to play around with the scenes by flashing forward, doing flash-backs and telling the whole thing out of chronological order. Hey, I saw Pulp Fiction ... I'm fully aware of the fine art of scene juggling. But what I can't handle is the senseless repetition of some scenes. I understand what he's trying to do - show the story from the two perspectives, Fiennes' and Moore's - but he should have attempted doing this without boring everyone senseless. Audiences, while generally not that intelligent (whether or not this is by choice or by genetics I'm not sure), usually get the drift the first time around (and the material is hardly that complex). Finally, there's the religious subtext. I will not even go into this because it isn't worth my time. Jordan's metaphysical 'moral' to the film is out-of-place (I won't go into it, but it involves a deal "made with God") and only contributes to the abundant roll-your-eyes awfulness that makes up this misguided effort.