As a Merchant-Ivory film, Le Divorce comes with its own set of preconceived notions about what it should and should not be. Indeed, its plot would be right at home in the costumed, pre-20th century halls of M-I films of the ’80s and early ’90s. But Le Divorce takes place in the now, with all the associated societal intrigue and prejudices its forebears painted so well. Perhaps too well — the backstabbing and drama present in Le Divorce feel not so much dynamic as they do a poorly timed joke, and the complete lack of guile on the part of stars Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson doesn’t help matters in a culture as subtext-rich as gay Paree.
Le Divorce is told through the eyes of Isabel Walker (Hudson), a twentysomething American who arrives in Paris just in time to find her sister Roxy’s (Watts) French husband, Charles-Henri, abandoning her, though she’s pregnant with their second child. Isabel and Roxy have a typically American — or so the French characters in the film would have us think — reaction to the desertion, in that they refuse to take it lying down. Roxy grows ever more depressed, while Isabel burrows her way into the lives of her soon-to-be-ex-in-laws, taking up with her brother-in-law’s uncle and finding work with famous expatriate Olivia Pace (Glenn Close). On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Charles-Henri’s wealthy, appearance-obsessed family, led by a wrinkled but proud Leslie Caron as the tribal matriarch, feels saddled now with not one but two silly Americans, and would rather Roxy just forget about the whole thing.
The quasi-layered nature of Le Divorce does nothing to make it into the niche hit it seeks to be. The movie itself is a distraction, and while the It Girl status of Hudson and Watts won’t suffer for having been a part of it, this won’t lend them any sort of credibility that they might have been seeking by hooking up with the Merchant-Ivory crew.
Showing exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W. of Telegraph). Call 248-263-2111.
Erin Podolsky writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.