Feature Review – The Painted Veil

by alphamonkey on December 20, 2006 · 10 comments

in Uncategorized

The Painted Veil: 2 & ½ Stars (out of 5)

Not content to just give us yet another new film about adultery, Hollywood has decided to remake old ones as well.  Joy.  There’s nothing horrible about the new version of The Painted Veil but there’s nothing that memorable about it either.  It’s just there.  It will divert your attention if you happen to see it, at least for a time, but if you chose to skip it you won’t really miss anything worth mentioning.  How’s that for a ringing endorsement?  I don’t know why the studio’s marketing folks didn’t use it for the poster.

Kitty (Naomi Watts) is a rich and spoiled daughter who decides to marry a medical researcher, and friend of her father, Walter Fane (Edward Norton) to placate her mother and secure her future.  Kitty doesn’t love Walter, and struggles with his quiet and introverted manner.

Kitty becomes infatuated with another married man (Liev Schreiber) and begins a torrid affair.  On discovering his wife’s infidelity Walter offers her the choice of divorce or to go with him into a remote region of China that is experiencing a cholera epidemic.

Unable to deal with the disgrace of divorce Kitty joins her husband in his medical research, knowing it could well be a death sentence for her, and discovers a new understanding of herself, Walter, and the world.

Though not a horrible film, it is rather pointless.  Nothing here demanded a remake from the 1934 film, nor is anything significant added.

It terms of performance I found the film lacking.  In a film concerning an English couple director John Curran casts an Australian and an American – both who seem incapable of an English accent.

I like Naomi Watts but she’s certainly no Greta Garbo.  She also seems to have a knack for taking roles in films that I could care less about, though at least this is better than her two films from last year (King Kong and Stay).  Of course there isn’t much that wouldn’t be an improvement over those films, including a hard shot to the groin, so it’s a minimal step-up at best.

The film has some nice cinematography and lovely shots of mountains and streams.  It looks pretty enough, but there’s just nothing there behind the surface beauty.  If the film were a person it would be a Hooters waitress.  Hey, that would look great on a poster, wouldn’t it?

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  • john

    naomi watts was born & lived in england for her first 14 years.  her mum lives there now.  she is an expert on english, as well as american, dialects.  so you can dislike her choices & her job in this film.  but her accent was perfect.  She even speaks gaelic.  are you english?  she is making a film for david cronenberg in england, playing an englishwoman right now.  & she is 10x the actress garbo is.  garbo could not do accents so the 1934 version, which everyone including garbo, knew was a turkey (as opposed to this well-reviewed version around 80% positive).  the fact that you don’t seem to know watts’s brilliant turns in mulholland dr & 21grams is sad.  you are obviously the type of person who leads her to say sarcastically, ‘why not just go for the bucks & make the dumb romantic comedy?  rather than a thoughtful art film.

  • http://360.yahoo.com/razorfine_review Thundarr (Alan Rapp)

    I’d ask you to go back and read my review again more carefully, but since you didn’t the first time I guess there’s no point.

    As I said, I enjoy Naomi Watts, my problem with her is she keeps making films I think are average (like this one – 2.5 Stars doesn’t mean I think it’s crap, I just don’t think it’s all the innovative, interesting, or adds anything to the original which is the only reason to justify a remake), and she spends time on the incredibly stupid (King Kong, Stay).

    My review (5 out of 10) might be slightly more critical than the national average (7.2 out of 10) according to rotten tomatoes, but I’m far from the only reviewer who found the film wanting, including the Los Angeles Times, FilmCritic.com, Variety, and The Onion.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dragonlews elkciN

    I’d probably care about this movie if it was a hooters waitress. At least until I’d finished my wings and been rejected (not in that particular order).

    On a related note, Naomi Watts is hot. Hot people are not required to be able to act, just to be an actor. See also: 70% of Hollywood

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    To be fair, I think Alan’s point is that Naomi Watts can indeed act, it’s just that she continues to pick projects a little below her ability (see: Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro)

  • http://www.myspace.com/dragonlews elkciN

    I didn’t say that she couldn’t act, just that I don’t mind. I’ve only seen her in King Kong (maybe some other movies, I can’t recall), so I couldn’t really say either way. I do know, however, that she is hot.

    Especially compared to Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro.

  • steandric

    I’m sure you’ve not seen the 1934 version otherwise you wouldn’t have said this film doesn’t have anything significantly added as the opposite is true. The 1934 film butchered the novel and ended abruptly with the death of Walter caused by a “stab” wound. The added themes of forgiveness and China under western imperialism were both absent in the old film. Naomi Watts’ English accent is naturally perfect as she is British by birth. Naomi Watts is certainly no Garbo because Watts is both an actress and a movie star whereas Garbo was just a movie star. This film is one of the National Board of Review’s 10 best films of the year and is receiving 77% critics’ approval. (King Kong – 84%. Stay – critically acclaimed as stylish and thought-provoking). I’m afraid you’re not slightly more critcal. You just don’t know about films.

  • http://360.yahoo.com/razorfine_review Thundarr (Alan Rapp)

    Again, I’ll refer you to my previous comment.  I’m not the only critic who found the film lacking in certain areas.  I’m a little harder on remakes than many critics, but again I’m not saying this film was bad, just unnecessary and redundant, especially with the number of films on this subject from the past year. 

    I have not read the book and perhaps your love for a truer representation on screen was fulfilled here.  To me it was just another average film that was beautifully shot.  Aside from some nice photography however there’s nothing all that memorable about the film.

    In reading over your comment, you make some nice points, not all of which I agree with, but you loose steam in your argument (and your supposed “moral superiority”) when you attack the critic rather than defend the film – which if the film could stand on it’s own merits shouldn’t be necessary.  And by the way, I don’t think you’ll get very far with teh ‘monkey or me using the greatness of King Kong as part of any argument you make.

  • http://www.dadsbigplan.com .alphamonkey.

    King Kong sucked.

  • http://www.myspace.com/dragonlews elkciN

    Thoughts provoked by King Kong:

    ‘Computers will replace us all, one day’

    ‘When is this movie going to be over?’

  • nakis

    I have not yet seen the new version of “The Painted veil” (it will open in France next March), so I can only talk abou the 1934 version with Greta Garbo. Those who say that Garbo is just a movie star simply do not know what they are talking about. Garbo is an extraordinary actress with an incomparable range. Her “Camille” is considered by many critics and film historians as the greatest performance by an actress of all times. And who could match her achievements as an actress in such diverse roles as Ninotschka (comedy), Anna Karenina(a tragic complex role), as the androgynous Queen Christina or the modern heroine in the silent Woman of Affairs? I personally love the 1934 version of “The painted veil”. Yes, it is Hollywood, yes there is a sappy happy end but the result is magic. Sometimes, that is what is often missing in today’s films they spend months doing a movie in its natural decor (think of the 1997 boring version of Anna Karenina with Sophie Marceau), everything looks nice and real and yet boring. In the 1934 version we know that the film was not shot in China, we know that they change Kitty’s nationality to accomodate Garbo’s accent and yet somehow for me at least the magic works because we are able to follow and participate in the emotional and spiritual journey of the characters, especially Garbo and Herbert Marshall who plays her husband. See the light touch and humour of their first scenes in Austria where they meet, followed by the wondrous excitement and naiveté of Garbo’s discovery of the orient, the naive and touching way she is seduced by the british aùbassador, the extraordinary way she expresses her guilt and tenderness during her reconciliation scene with her husband. Garbo invests herself with such divine simplicity in that film and it is such a welcome change to see her in the part of a simple yet commplexe young woman instead of the femme fatales or tragic heroines that she was asked to play before. And Adrian’s costumes and William Daniel’s photography make her well, look more Divine.So just to conclude, looking forward seing the new version, but no attacks on Garbo, she is Divine.

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