DVD Review: The Painted Veil
Release Date: May 8, 2007
Distributor: Warner Home Video
· John Curran
· Naomi Watts
· Edward Norton
· Liev Schreiber
· Diana Rigg
· Official Site
· IMDb: The Painted Veil
by R.J. Carter
Published: May 7, 2007
Naomi Watts and Edward Norton co-star and co-produce this celluloid opiate, adapted from the work by W. Somerset Maugham. Watts portrays Kitty, a daughter of privilege who has yet to be married off as she awaits love. As such, she's a great disappointment to her parents, who are trying to foist her into matrimony. Feeling guilty, she accepts the proposal of Dr. Walter Fane (Norton), a bacteriologist with the government laboratory in Shanghai.
It's a loveless marriage, at least on Kitty's part, and Walter is such a distracted fellow, deep into his research. So it's only a matter of time before Kitty falls into an affair with the dashing (and married) Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber). Kitty falls in love with Charlie, and believes he is in love with her as well.
However, Walter is aware of the dalliance. And when a cholera outbreak ten days away calls for his attention, he intends to drag Kitty with him. If she won't go, he will file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, naming Townsend as her lover. He will, however, strike a bargain with her: if Townsend will divorce his wife and marry Kitty, he will instead allow Kitty to file for the divorce against him. Kitty broaches the agreement with Charlie and -- surprise, surprise -- learns that maybe he wasn't that much in love with her after all.
"I'm afraid that you have thought me a bigger fool than I am."|
Dr. Walter Fane
As Walter deals with the cholera outbreak -- something he's not mentally prepared to handle, having been a lab worker with little patient experience -- the political situation in China begins to violently change, as Nationalist Chinese begin to revolt against the Imperialist Brits. Now Kitty has to worry that if the disease doesn't get her, the citizens will. They're already none too happy that Walter has shut down all their nearby water supplies to stave off the epidemic, caused by the burial of their dead too close to the stream. When Kitty receives a call to visit a nearby convent, her heart is struck by the many orphans there, and she learns from the Mother Superior (Diana Rigg) that her seemingly emotionally distant husband is actually quite good with the children there. Wanting to be of some use herself, Kitty volunteers her services at the convent, allowing her husband to see a new side of her as well.
It all builds up -- over two hours that feel longer than they are -- to an ending of reconciliation, redemption, and ultimate tragedy. The story is very believably acted in realistic settings. However, that doesn't keep the story from being as dry as dust, with a crawling pace. Sure, you can't exactly liven up a cholera epidemic, and a good adaptation will stay as true to the source material as possible. But the audience for this film is bound to be a small one and, admittedly, just doesn't include me.
You Are My Wife -- Goodbye, City Life! Walter forcibly
insists his unfaithful wife accompany him into a cholera-
ravaged region of China. (L-R: Watts, Norton)
Audio is available in English 5.1 only, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.
Previews on this disc include "For Your Consideration", "The Astronaut Farmer", and "Music and Lyrics".