Painted Veil
After this, I want to ride on Splash Mountain and get a picture with Goofy.

Golden Mug

Actress (Naomi Watts)

Theatrical Release Date: 12/29/2006
Director: John Curran
Cast: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones, Diana Rigg

Floating through independent cinemas has been the W. Somerset Maugham novel turned film “The Painted Veil”.

A story of found love set amid the cholera epidemic in China, the film resonated strongly with critics but failed to attract much notice otherwise.

This is surprising to me because it has all the makings of a film that would resonate with the typical romantic period piece crowd, generally an audience of people over 40 years of age, if I’m going to blatantly profile.

However, people haven’t seemed to flock to this one and that’s a shame. While it’s not the best in its genre of grand, sweeping, romantic epics, it is very good.

And how could it not be, when the two leads are Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, two of the very best actors working today?

Each of them do a superb job, him with his stiff upper lip and unrequited love and her as a trapped prisoner of a wife who eventually finds that her husband isn’t such a hard man to love.

Actually, I applaud Ms. Watts for once again turning in a brilliant performance, full of nuance and toeing the line gracefully between spite and pleasant resignation.

Her character knows the situation she is in and tries to make the best of things, all the while portraying a brave face, no matter how scared she is inside.

Norton is also excellent, though he isn’t really given much to work with in the script. The emotional struggle is much heavier and apparent in Watts’ character.

The film sees the couple travel from England to China and then to rural China, as Norton pursues his cause to fight the cholera epidemic in the 1920s.

The landscape is lush and beautiful, providing almost another character for the film.

The supporting roles are done well, most notably by Jones and Rigg, who help to provide the audience with a better understanding of life in rural China during that time, as seen by the Europeans who were trying to colonize the area.

Where the film falls short for me is in how incomplete the story feels. I can piece together the holes for myself, and I never felt lost or confused, but seeing as this was based on a novel, there was apparently a lot left out.

It was like hearing only one end of a phone conversation. Sure, I can figure out what the people are talking about but I don’t really get a firm grasp on the full picture and I feel like I’m missing details.

It’s one of those common problems that arises when adapting a book for the screen and it probably doesn’t help that I’m not much of a period film fan to begin with.

Again, the acting is superb and the setting is beautiful. I just don’t know who I’d recommend this to that was under 35 or 40 years old. I just found it hard to connect to the story.

So I’m going to award “The Painted Veil” a 3 out of 5. It’s a well done film and has its merits but somehow the feeling of importance or accomplishment one feels when they leave a theater having watched one of these genre films isn’t there.

For my money, if I’m going to do a period romantic epic, it’s almost “Dr. Zhivago” or bust. Probably not a fair standard but no one ever said I was fair.