Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Best Picture: "The English Patient," 1996

Movie Stats:
Released 1996 (Italy)
American & British, in English (some non-translated German, Italian & Arabic)
Director – Anthony Minghella
Stars – Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Kristin Scott Thomas

Plot Summary:
In the closing days of WWII, French-Canadian nurse Hana (Binoche) cares for a badly burned, dying man, Count Laszlo de Almasy (Fiennes). The story of his ill-fated love affair with Katharine Clifton (Thomas) is shown to the viewers through flashbacks. Surprise-to-me appearances by Willem Defoe as David “Moose” Caravaggio, a man from Almasy’s past; Colin Firth as Katharine’s husband, Geoffrey; and Naveen Andrews as Hana’s love interest, Kip Singh.

Minimal blue language; some violence; full frontal female nudity; sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
The pace is very slow. I wouldn’t say I was bored, exactly. It just felt like it took so long to get to the point that I had everything figured out before it got there, so nothing was a surprise. And I like surprises.

I couldn’t get into the “love story” of Laszlo and Katharine, which is half the point of the film. For one, despite the fact that Fiennes and Thomas had good chemistry, I didn’t understand why the two characters would go for each other. It was all spite and dislike until suddenly they were making out, which is, granted, a fairly standard trope of movies/TV/books, but I think it’s a rather tired one. For another, I personally don’t find adulterous affairs to be romantic or moving. So their story wasn’t beautiful/tragic to me.

The sex scenes were weird. Maybe they were supposed to come across as animalistic and/or passionate? I’m not sure. I just know I found them off-putting.

Good Stuff:
Hana and Kip together. Very sweet. Their scene in the church was my favorite of the whole entire film. The scene where he speaks to her about his recently departed comrade was a close second.

Juliette Binoche was delightful throughout.

The Verdict:
I’d avoided this movie because, based on what little I knew, I thought I would loathe it. I didn’t loathe it. However, I didn’t quite like it either. It’s one of those films where, if asked about it, I would say that it’s “okay” and that it depends on what kind of movies you’re into. I can see why people love it – I’m sure they get swept up in the romance of it. I don’t happen to be one of those people. To me, it was predictable. I also thought that some of it was ridiculously melodramatic (especially a particular scene with a plane crash toward the end of the film).

I have to say that I’m pretty disappointed with the 90s. Out of the 10 winners, only two of them are set in modern times. Of those two, only one (the upcoming “American Beauty”) gives any kind of insight into what it was like to live in the 1990s. Isn’t that strange? Looking through the list of winners, it’s the only decade where the vast majority had very little to say about the times people were living in. I wonder what that’s all about?

But I digress. If adulterous affairs that end tragically are your thing, then this is the movie for you. As a side note, if you want a good laugh, I recommend checking out the user reviews on IMDB to see how incredibly defensive people are about liking this film, haha. (My personal favorite is the person who opines that the only people who don’t like this film are the same people who haven’t read a book since high school.)

I give the movie 2.75 stars.

6/11/14 - Upon further reflection, I decided to raise the rating of this movie to 3.25 stars. To read more about why, click HERE.


Patricia said...

Things I remember about this film: the guy who wears a turban (which probably has an actual name, and for which I feel guilty not knowing, but not guilty enough to do some research) combing out his incredibly long gorgeous hair and somehow olive oil was involved.

Also, I think there is a Seinfeld episode with Elaine not liking this film and a big deal was made.

And that's it. I remember liking it, I remember feeling very much a cinephile for seeing it and I remember nothing else.

Perhaps we couldn't bother noting what was going on in the 90s because the Baby Boomer directors were still doing a lot of navel gazing and the Gen-X kids hadn't really gotten a firm toehold. Ahem.

balyien said...

The long-haired guy is Kip, played by Naveen Andrews, who I know from watching "Lost." His hair was fantastic in this film. The olive oil came into play because Hana brought him some to put in his hair. It signaled to him that she was interested in the sexy times.

When it came out last fall, I tried to watch Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (the spin-off of the TV show Once Upon a Time), but the hair they gave Naveen Andrews was so bad that it might have killed my lady boner for him for all time. I honestly felt embarrassed for him.

And I agree, let's blame everything on the Baby Boomers! :)