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Le divorce
IMDB Rating: 4.9/10 from MG6 votes
Release: 29 August 2003 (USA) /

Le divorce

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: Diane Johnson,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: The differences in legalities and cultural mores of French and Americans regarding sex, love, marriage, religion and family bonds are presented through the interactions of two families related by marriage. American Isabel Walker heads to Paris to visit her half-sister, poet Roxeanne de Persand, who is early in the pregnancy of her second child. Isabel arrives to find that Roxy's French husband, Charles-Henri de Persand, has just left Roxy, the sisters both eventually further learning that it is because he has fallen in love with another woman, who is herself married. Roxy and Charles-Henri deal with their break-up, which Roxy does not want but must face the legal consequences of, including determining the ownership of what may be a valuable French painting that has been casually in the Walker family for years, but which Roxy has had in her possession since she got married. Meanwhile, Isabel begins to explore all that France has to offer, which includes concurrently embarking on sexual... Written by Huggo

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Critic Reviews


It's amusing to read some of the comments in this page of IMDb. Most postings place the blame for what they perceive as the failure of this picture on James Ivory, Ismael Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the successful creative team of some of the best movies of recent years. In fact, the sin they appear to have committed was to adapt the Diane Johnson's novel about the contrasts she has always written about between two cultures that should be more similar: the French and American, yet, as we read in the book, and now watched in the film, they are not as close as one would imagine.

First, the French one sees portrayed in the film belong to the high classes that are imbued in their traditions, savoir faire, their sense of style and being B.C.B.G., something the Americans, being somehow a new society without those traditions cannot comprehend. Money is a taboo subject to be spoken at all by the wealthy French, whereas in America the flaunting of having made fortunes and having millions is an everyday subject for the higher ups.

Ms. Johnson, who has lived in France for quite some time, is an observant of that society. In her many books about life in that country, the study in the contrasts she sees, are at center stage and the mixing of Americans with the French bourgeoisie produces surprising results that make the reading of her novels more compelling for the joy they bring to her readers.

Isabel, the young American, arriving to stay with her sister Roxanne, takes easily to the new surroundings. In doing so, she completely disregards the established rules when she enters in a liaison with Marc-Henri, who sees the occasion as one for amusing himself for a while. Roxanne, on the other hand, soon discovers what she is against when her French husband decides to ask her for a divorce. Little has prepared her for the consequences that go with it and the archaic laws about a couple's separation in that country, which benefits the husband while punishing the wife.

The other theme at the core of the story is a painting Roxanne has brought with her from San Diego. The possibility of it being a real Delacroix is now at the center of the divorce settlement. Where one can see it has nothing to do with the cheating husband, Suzanne, the mother-in-law deems otherwise because of the possible value the painting will fetch when it's sold.

Naomi Watts makes another great contribution in her appearance as Roxanne. Kate Hudson is not in the same league, although her good looks and natural charm makes one care more for her Isabel. The delicious Leslie Caron plays Madame de Persand with great panache. Just watching her remarking about the granulated sugar Charlotte offers her to sweeten her tea is one of the delights of the film. Tierry Lhermitte is seen as the callous Edgar. Glenn Close plays Olivia Pace, a writer,who might be Diane Johnson's alter ego in the story. Stephen Fry, Stockard Channing, Sam Waterston, and the rest of the French and American cast do a good job.

This film has a feeling of being more French than some French movies. The cinematography of Pierre Lhomme is wonderful as he takes his camera all over the city showing us what a treat it is to be in Paris, even for a visit. The other thing that comes across is the involvement of the late Ismail Marchant to the production. Mr. Merchant got great locales in where to film and had a great eye for the style of the pictures he was producing. His absence, alas, is sadly missed from the latest James Ivory project "The White Countess".

In spite of not being up to some of his best movies, James Ivory still shows he has a keen eye for presenting the material on the screen.

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