Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Painted Veil

A worthwhile holdover from the holiday film season, "The Painted Veil" is the second filmed version of the novel by W. Somerset Maugham. The first was a 1934 version starring Greta Garbo as Kitty Fane and now we have the modern version starring Naomi Watts as Kitty and Edward Norton as her husband, Dr. Walter Fane. I'm sure Garbo was wonderful and I will seek out the original version now for a comparison. But for now, I can report that Watts and Norton are just terrific together.

The story takes place in 1925. Norton is a infectious disease doctor living in China. He quickly meets and marries Watts, a society girl in London looking to escape her family life and brings her back to live with him in Shanghai. When an outbreak of cholera is reported in a remote Chinese village, Norton volunteers to go help the locals.

The story follows a journey of discovery for these two souls and the chemistry between them is wonderful. Ms. Watts has the more difficult role as her character moves through various life changing experiences but Mr. Norton, excellent as always, completely inhabits his character and plays beautifully against her. Liv Schreiber, Toby Jones, and Diana Rigg co-star.

The exotic setting, with it's beautiful rivers and mountains, danger of cholera exposure, tension between the British and Chinese, along with fine acting by the entire cast, keep you absorbed throughout the film. It is a terrific adult drama that is a refreshing alternative to "Norbert" and "Hannibal" and the rest of the Hollywood winter waste out there.

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