Saturday, September 3, 2016

Wide Sargasso Sea


Starring: Karina Lombard, Nathaniel Parker, Claudia Robinson

Rated NC-17 for Strong, Explicit Sexuality

I got the distinct impression that when making this movie, the sex scenes came first.  And there are plenty of them (hence the NC-17 rating).  Actors Nathaniel Parker and especially Karina Lombard throw themselves into their roles and they look great.  But there's no mistaking director John Duigan's focus: put as much hot sex into this movie as he can.  It's not porn; it's intentions are to do something more than simply marry gratuitous sex and nudity with story.  But that's where his focus lies.

Unfortunately, the only thing worth praising other than the eroticism is the film's look and feel.  The camerawork by Geoff Burton is truly evocative; you can feel the heat and humidity of the Caribbean.  Add to that the moody score by Stewart Copeland, and you've got an intensely atmospheric little film.  It's a pity that the story and the acting aren't on the same level.

The film takes place in the 1840's.  Slavery has been recently abolished, which took away a considerable amount of the savings of the Cosway family.  Through a series of events too tedious to explain, Antoinette (Lombard) is entering into an arranged marriage with an Englishman named Edward Rochester (Parker).  The two hit it off great, with their life at her mountain cabin being filled with their passionate and acrobatic acts of sex and love.  But a man named Daniel (Ben Thomas), who claims to be the illegitimate son of Antoinette's father, sows seeds of distrust between the newlyweds, and what was once a great start to a marriage begins to curdle.

This is dime-store romantic melodrama 101.  That's not such a bad thing.  We all like a little cheese in our movies from time to time.  More importantly, the film knows its hokey.  Granted, the plot has about as good of a flow as a car with a dead battery and the dialogue is at times embarrassing, but at least it has the good sense to wear its flaws with honor.  It never pretends to be something that it's not.

Clearly, the actors were chosen for what they would show and do, rather than whether they could create interesting characters.  Or even recite dialogue halfway convincingly.  Take Karina Lombard for example.  She looks incredible and there's nothing that she doesn't show to the camera, but she can't act.  The simplest line of dialogue defeats her.  Her co-star, Nathaniel Parker, is better, but his co-star and script limit what he can do.  The only person of any interest is Claudia Robinson, who plays Christophene, the obligatory local witch.  She's one of the bright spots in the film, but sadly she's strictly a supporting character with little to do.

In a rare move, Fine Line Features didn't appeal the NC-17 rating and released it uncut.  The DVD includes the NC-17 version and an R-rated cut.  I watched the former, but I don't know why they bothered, since the sex is really the only reason to see this movie.

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