Le Divorce

Release Date: August 8, 2003
Limited release

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Team Merchant Ivory is at it again, only this time, instead of their traditional bodice-ripping (ok, ruffling) period costume drama, they are trying their collective hands at a modern comedy of manners set in Paris. Le Divorce is based on the internationally best-selling novel by Diane Johnson, who, interestingly enough, shared script co-writing duties with Stanley Kubrick on the movie version of The Shining. Sadly, this project does not appear to include any maniacs wielding croquet mallets, but instead features Parisians wielding haughty attitudes. Merchant Ivory favorite Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (The Golden Bowl, A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries) shares screenwriting credit with James Ivory.

The movie centers around two step-sisters from Santa Barbara living together in Paris. Naomi "It Girl of 2001" Watts plays Roxy, the pregnant sister whose French husband has just left her for another woman. Kate "It Girl of 2000 But Making a Big Surge after that Insipid Romantic Comedy Stolen off the Paltrow Reject Pile Opened to Big Bucks, so Suck It, You Lesbian Aussie Tart" Hudson plays her recent film-school grad stepsister, Isabel Walker. Isabel's parents have sent her to live with Roxy, ostensibly to help with nanny duties for Roxy's daughter, but also to allow Roxy and Isabel to keep an eye out for each other. (Roxy is suspected to be an emotional mess over her pending divorce and Isabel is thought to be (surprise, surprise) flighty and in need of supervision.)

While in Paris, Isabel generally flits about with various natives and American ex-pats in Roxy's social circle, including Roxy's husband's large, wealthy Parisian family. As is required of any American ingénue in Paris, Isabel falls into an affair with a much older, more worldly Frenchman who lavishes her with expensive meals and teaches her how to be a proper European sophisticate. In this case, the Henri Higgins-Humbert in question is her brother-in-law's 70+ year old married uncle Edgar, played by French actor Thierry Lhermite. All of this allows for plenty of opportunity to highlight the amusing ways that they Do Things Differently in France (here's a hint: the French are apparently much more pragmatic about matters of the heart).

The plot thickens even further during Roxy's divorce proceedings when a family painting given by Roxy to her husband is discovered to be considerably more valuable than anyone had previously imagined, leading to increasing tension between the Walker family and Roxy's in-laws. Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing play Roxy and Isabel's parents, while Leslie Caron plays the French mother-in-law. Rounding out the cast is Glenn Close as a famous American author, Bebe Neuwirth as an art dealer and Matthew Modine as the emotionally-overwrought American husband of Roxy's husband's new lover.

Reportedly, the book's darker elements have been toned down and a pivotal scene at Euro Disney has been relocated to the ubiquitous Eiffel Tower (proving that Paris bureaucrats are much more easily impressed by shiny movie trinket payoffs than Disney PR managers). Whether this will help the film to reach a wider audience remains to be seen, since Merchant Ivory films have never really been known for burning up the box office, despite their generally favorable critical reception. Le Divorce's constantly shifting release date doesn't bode particularly well for it in this regard, particularly since it's currently sitting in August, where studios still tend to dump their box office dead wood. (Calvin Trager/BOP)

Vital statistics for Le Divorce
Main Cast Naomi Watts, Kate Hudson
Supporting Cast Bebe Neuwirth, Sam Waterston, Thierry Lhermitte, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Leslie Caron, Matthew Modine
Director James Ivory
Screenwriter James Ivory, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Distributor Fox Searchlight
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site http://www.foxsearchlight.com/ledivorce/
Rating PG-13
Running Time 117 minutes
Screen Count 34
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Le Divorce
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Almost Famous 9/22/006.93 7.75 1193 5809.00 6250.9 32.47 36.32 4.22
Four Feathers, The 9/20/026.86 7.13 1912 3587.00 3587.0 18.31 19.03 2.67
Mulholland Drive 10/19/010.96 1.02 247 3889.00 3992.2 7.22 7.70 6.13



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