Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for mature themes
Run Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
The last of the formidable Merchant-Ivory collaborations (Ismail Merchant passed away last year) is not in keeping with the quality we have come to expect from the classy duo but its artistry is in the right place.
1936, a time of political restlessness and upheaval. Blind American diplomat
Todd Jackson contemplates shirking his diplomatic duties in favor of pursuing
his dream: an upscale nightclub with all the glamour and intrigue of Rick's Café Américain in “
The club is
a success but
“Countess” encompasses familiar Merchant-Ivory elements; gorgeous period costumes and backdrops, unspoken endearments and an uneasy foundation of social unrest. The performances are top notch when not weighed down by the script’s more exaggerated pretensions (“All of us have to fall in love from time to time to feed our children”).
Fiennes’ moody posturing sets a deliciously melodramatic tone but can’t overcome uneven pacing, sluggish in spots and delightfully energetic in others. Over-calculated and less than it should be but not without its charms.