Released: November 6 2003
Cast: Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Jean-Marc Barr, Stockard Channing, Glenn Close, Leslie Caron, Matthew Modine, Sam Waterston
Director: James Ivory
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Le Divorce follows the journey of Isabel Walker (Kate Hudson), a quintessential young Californian newly arrived in the City of Light to visit her pregnant sister, Roxeanne (Naomi Watts), who has just been jilted by her scoundrel husband, Charles-Henri de Persand (Melvil Poupaud), and it appears they are headed for "le divorce." Meanwhile, Isabel leaps into l'amour with a married French diplomat (Thierry Lhermitte) who happens to be the uncle of Roxy's soon-to-be-ex. As scandal ensues, the American idealism and irrepressible spirit of the Walker sisters comes up against the French sophistication and stubborn rationalism of the Persand family. Complicating the two families' relations is a painting in Roxy's possession that is discovered to be worth millions of dollars. And then, quite suddenly, a crime of passion disrupts all the scheming and culture clashes - and opens up new possibilities for understanding.
Le Divorce is adapted from Diane Johnson's bestseller of the same name and is hard to define. It is sometimes frustrating to watch because just as we are beginning to get to know a character, another is introduced and then another and another and so it goes on. There is so much happening that at times it is all too confusing.
But there are many moments that are redeeming. It is a pleasure to watch Leslie Caron as one of the very, very rich French. She is the mother-in-law to Naomi Watts' character Roxeanne and shows loyalty to her son whilst in denial of his affair with another woman, and also loyalty to her brother's wife whilst he is having an affair with Roxy's sister (Kate Husdson). She is very manipulative, controlling and obviously used to getting her own way. Leslie has a certain charisma that is perfect for the role of the matriach.
Naomi Watts plays the deserted pregnant wife well. She is torn between hatred towards her husband for daring to leave her and love for him as her husband. She shares the burden of her loss with her sister Roxy, who becomes the mistress of Isabel's uncle. Roxy plunges into adultery with her eyes firmly shut, and is taken aback at others changed attitude towards her because of it. This of course, lets us witness some beautiful French cuisine, scenery and idiosyncrasies. Matthew Modine's character is an enigma here - he is the jilted husband of the woman having an affair with Roxy's husband - and he spends most of his screen time acting out as a crazy husband. It was a superfluous character that became rather tedious. There is even a scene atop the Eiffel Tower which seemed a token visit made just to include it in the film - what film set in Paris would be finished without a visit to the famous tower? Glenn Close has a role as a successful American writer living in Paris, who has become wise by experience and has some of the best lines, using her wisdom to convey her message to anyone willing to listen.
Le Divorce is a glimpse into the lives of some of the very rich French and as such was sometimes hard to relate to. However, it does teach us of their expectations of being so rich and of their lifestyle. It combines a range of well-known actors showing us their talents and for that alone is worth seeing.
- Christina Bruce