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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Le Divorce
Le Divorce
Fox // R // January 27, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 23, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

From the producing/directing team of Merchant/Ivory, "Le Divorce" is an unsuccessful attempt at light-weight fare that is certainly less challenging and also less satisfying than most of the team's dramatic works. The film does, however, have its charms. The film stars Naomi Watts as Roxanne De Persand, an American-born poet who is living in Paris with her French husband, Charles-Henri (Melvil Poupaud), and their daughter.

Almost exactly upon the arrival of her younger sister, Isabel (Kate Hudson), Charles-Henri leaves Roxanne for another woman. Charles is terrible for what he did, but especially for leaving Roxanne while she's pregnant with another child. However, his family isn't very supportive and neither are France's divorce laws - he gets both custody and a pretty painting. Meanwhile, Isabel finds herself in an affair with Edgar Cosset (Thierry Lhermitte), who is the brother of Suzanne (Leslie Caron), who happens to be Charles's mother. Flying over to aid their daughters are the parents of Roxanne and Isabel (Sam Waterston and Stockard Channing). Matthew Modine plays a really strange (and eventually, quite insane) character who finds himself in the midst of the whole situation and generally seems like he walked in from another movie.

What should have been a character-driven comedy never gets going. Nobody's really sympathetic here (Hudson's character has a fling with the uncle of the guy her sister's going through a particularly nasty divorce), as all of the characters seem spoiled, blandly mean-spirited or not particularly bright. There's nothing really (or, for that matter, even slightly) funny here and some quite dramatic moments (a suicide attempt, a murder) that are wrapped up neatly. The film, however, seems to think itself terribly amusing. Neither the comedy or the drama works. The film seems more concerned about looks than character, as more thought seems to have been put into getting glam locations (I was not surprised when a character starts singing "money makes the world go 'round") than actually developing characters that we can be involved in.

It doesn't end there, however. The film is something of a mess, as plot threads are picked up and then thrown by the wayside. There's hardly an interesting story here to begin with, but the excruciating two-hour length doesn't help - the film could have easily lost a good 15-20 minutes. Watts is wasted in the role of Roxanne, as the Hudson character gets more of the focus. The widescreen cinematography doesn't even make Paris look inviting.

Chilly, glacially paced, convoluted, flatly played and proceeding with what seems like just barely enough energy to get to the next scene, "Le Divorce" shows that clearly, Merchant/Ivory should stick with what they do best and leave the modern comedy to someone else.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Le Divorce" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I wasn't too pleased with this film's cinematography to begin with, as it doesn't do much for what should be beautiful scenery. Sharpness and detail are merely average, as the picture isn't terribly soft, yet doesn't boast a very impressive level of detail, either.

I noticed little in the way of compression artifacts and nothing in the way of edge enhancement, yet there were also moments in the film where a speck or two was visible on the print used. Colors remained vivid and generally well-rendered throughout. A very panned and scanned pan & scan presentation unfortunately takes up space on the flip side of the DVD.

SOUND: The Fox Searchlight logo at the front of the film provides the most aggressive audio moment in this film, but that's to be expected from the material. Dialogue-driven, the sound is front-heavy, with occasional touches of score spread out across the front speakers. Dialogue remains generally clean and clear, as do the occasional sound effects.

EXTRAS: I noticed the back of the box didn't list any extras and thought that maybe they simply were omitted from the back of the box. Nope. There's really nothing else included here - not even a trailer.

Final Thoughts: Pointless and dismaying, "Le Divorce" is neither funny or effectively dramatic and largely remained a bore. Fox's DVD offers nothing in the way of supplements and audio/video quality that is nothing special. Skip it.

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