Queen of the Desert

Director: Werner Herzog
Year Released: 2015
Rating: 1.5

Middle East scholar Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman) has a too-brief love affair with British civil servant/soldier Henry Cadogan (James Franco) but when he commits suicide she disappears into the previously avoided parts of (what's now) Jordan/Arabia/Iraq etc. in order to learn more about their culture. As if watching Herzog try to film romantic moments with Kidman and Franco isn't awkward enough - Werner just doesn't do 'kissy' and 'sweet' that well - the scenes where Kidman shows up in front of dangerous men and bats her eyes and gives a smile and 'wins them over' reminds me, unfortunately, of Shirley Temple in Wee Willie Winkie: her 'charm' is strong enough to make everyone step back, drink tea and become philosophical. It's a movie that keeps 'telling' you how important she is instead of 'showing' you - it's also the eccentric director trying to "play it straight" and winding up with a crisply-shot bunch o' nothin'. Kidman displays her usual grace and compassion, but it's Robert Pattinson who sneaks in an unexpectedly confident performance as T.E. Lawrence (sans pleasurable whippings).