Picks and Pans Review: Immortal Beloved

updated 01/16/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/16/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Gary Oldman, Isabella Rossellini, Valeria Golino, Johanna Ter Steege

If nothing else—and its opulent 19th-century costumes and sets aside there isn't much else—you will at least come out of this bio-cum-mystery about Ludwig van Beethoven humming the music. (I'm whistling the Ninth Symphony's "Ode to Joy" even as I type.)

just as Amadeus turned Mozart's life (or, more accurately, his death) into a mystery thriller, so director-writer Bernard Rose has constructed this movie around identifying the unnamed Immortal Beloved to whom Beethoven (Oldman) left his estate upon his death in 1827. Could it be the young Italian countess (Golino) with whom the composer stroked more than harpsichord keys? Is it the Hungarian countess (Rossellini) who appreciates his vulnerabilities? And what of his sister-in-law (Ter Steege), a comely upholsterer he denounces as a whore?

The movie is, fitfully, more enjoyable than it has any right to be, mostly because Oldman, making like a rock star (trashing hotel rooms, bedding nubile fans, yelling at the help), seems to be having such a swaggeringly good time. The resolution of the mystery is, however, no shocker and, ultimately, Beloved has all the sound and fury of Beethoven's music but none of its emotional resonance. (R)

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