The Painted Veil

Directed by John Curran

> > Jun 2007

The Painted Veil - Directed by John Curran
By Matt McMillanBased on the novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil is the story of bored, spoiled Kitty (Naomi Watts) who, despite an absence of love, marries introverted, awkward bacteriologist Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton). She joins him when he returns from England to Shanghai, where he disappears daily into a government laboratory. Trapped in a loveless marriage in the tumultuous China of the mid-’20s, Kitty is bored, adrift and acutely alone. Eventually, she meets a charming British diplomat who represents the only sliver of magnetism in her sterile little world. The Painted Veil is an old-fashioned Hollywood melodrama. It’s the classic kind of star-vehicle period piece that’s hoovered up Oscars for years. It’s also the kind of film that’s had boyfriends and husbands absently squirming next to their sniffling better halves for decades. And guys, this one takes at least 40 minutes before there’s anything real at stake. The film centres on emotionally distant characters sleepwalking through a culture completely alien to them. And the stiffness and aloofness of those characters come dangerously close to leaving the audience emotionally removed from their story. However, The Painted Veil features a well crafted narrative and is shot beautifully in Guilin, the part of China studded with breathtaking limestone mountains captured in hundreds of traditional paintings. It’s well directed, well acted and well written. If Oscar bait is your cup of tea, The Painted Veil is a suitably steeped mug of Orange Pekoe.
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