Film Review: Le Divorce (2003)

“You can always go home on le Métro”

A Merchant Ivory comedy of manners set in Paris? What could possibly go wrong… Le Divorce is what. A painfully tasteful affair set in contemporary France but resembling nothing so much as a glossy magazine spread, there’s nothing authentic about the city represented here. Nor, which proves to be a bigger point, about the people in the film, a vacuous set of characters purportedly showing us the difference between the US (won’t talk about sex) and the French (won’t talk about money) but mainly demonstrating that everyone is awful.

Based on a novel of the same name by Diane Johnson, one is left wondering why she hates her females so much. Isabel has gone to Paris to visit her émigré sister Roxeanne, whose husband Charles-Henri has left her for a married Russian lady despite being pregnant with their second child. Whilst there, Isabel then engages in concurrent affairs with two Frenchmen, despite seeing first-hand the impact of infidelity on her distraught sister, this kind of reactionary tosh populating the entire film with its inordinately large ensemble cast.

Since there’s so many characters, it is hard to get to know anyone before they start behaving erratically and for something selling itself as a romantic comedy, the whole thing is precious short on both. Naomi Watts convinces not at all as poet Roxie, Kate Hudson is left to be vacuous as Isabel and Glenn Close and Stockard Channing just leave you wishing they’d had to the sense to know better in their equally frustrating small parts. Allusions to Henry James in the writing and The Red Balloon in the filming only point up the paucity of the offensively bad material here. Non. 

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