Period pieces are weird. I think they’re made so historians can watch them and say things like “ah they got that right, they would have used that technique at that time.” or “How dare they?! They stopped eating figs during the Great Centennial Fasting!” as they’re watching. I’m not saying that’s the only reason, sometimes they actually have a point. But many of them fall into this habit of trying too hard to copy the time period. There are many problems with this. 1) the dialogue, because they need to talk in the style of the period, they’re saying things that are often very different from how they’re said now. This makes some actors, for some reason, unable to act. The harder the sentence is to say the less talent they have. I’m looking right at John Malkovich in this movie as I write this. 2) They’re very slow moving. A slow movie can work right if the subject matter calls for it. However, in this case and the case of many period movies, it’s slow simply because they need to show habits and customs of the time period. Sometimes they can do double duty and progress the plot while they do this, maybe with dialogue that is stilted by being too wordy and poorly acted, but you know, they can still do this. Many of them don’t though, and I think the reason for that is the filmmakers think the audience will be sooo interested in seeing how things were. I suppose this was in the days before the internet and people could just research things as they liked. But I still can’t imagine anyone is anything but bored by the opening scene showing many people dressing these rich people. Or these long conversations that don’t really go anywhere or progress the plot. There’s a lesson there to screenwriters. Things should either move the plot forward or develope characters (or both), if they do neither then CUT IT!
Glenn Close is very good in this movie. She can act around the strange dialogue and she does it beautifully. Too bad that John Malkovich is the main character. I usually don’t have problems with his acting but something about him here, with every dry, unemotional line he delivers, just takes me so far out of the movie that it’s hard for me to get back into it. Sometimes scenes will start and it will be fine for a few seconds as other characters talk and I start losing myself to the time period, then he’ll say anything at all and I’m back to wondering why he was cast in this role. I don’t know if it’s just someone told him that people acted like that during the period (the director maybe?) or he just had a problem with acting like someone so evil. Either way, I feel someone else might have done better in the role, but I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just not a very good role. Maybe the part was just beyond his control.
This movie spends too much time to get anywhere. I get it that Glenn Close and John Malkovich are evil but the way they go about it takes so long and it’s so esoteric. They want Malkovich to seduce a woman in order to ruin her fiance’s reputation. Something which is so far removed from this time period I can’t even understand where it’s coming from.
Every scene of this seduction is awful though. I mean, I like Michelle Pfeiffer, I just don’t like this. Malkovich advances on her, she pulls away, he lies to her, she pulls away. Over and over and over again. This goes on in multiple scenes, and they are always the same. And when (spoilers) he finally does seduce her every scene between the two of them gets even worse. Malkovich’s bad acting carries over to Pfeiffer through sexual contact I guess.
While that’s going on John Malkovich pretty much seduces a whole bunch of women. They’re clothes pretty much fall off when they see him. Maybe woman were very attracted to bad acting in those days. If that’s the case, all of Malkovich’s actions in this movie makes sense…
Why you should watch it before you die: Because you’ve been trapped in a time vortex that puts you after 1988 but before the days of the internet and you desperately need to see a naked woman. You’ll see a bunch in here. That’s the only reason. It’s beyond my control.