Picks and Pans Review: The Object of Beauty
Every once in a while you get the impression that maybe the British still haven't quite forgiven us for the events of the '80s—the 1780s, that is.
Directed and written by the British-trained Michael Lindsay-Hogg, this made-in-England him is a vicious national character assassination in the form of an oblique light comedy—and it's often fascinating in an unorthodox way. MacDowell and Malkovich play an American couple who have long since overstayed their welcome, as well as their ability to pay their bill, at a posh London hotel. She is a former model with no abilities or common sense; her aesthetic bent is displayed when she gushes over a small sculpture given her by her estranged husband: "I love my little Henry Moore."
Malkovich is a wuss of the first order, an irresponsible wheeler-dealer who keeps wheeling and dealing himself further into debt, most recently in a cocoa investment gone bust because of a dock strike in Sierra Leone. He has gotten so desperate that he wants MacDowell to sell the Moore sculpture: she counters with the suggestion that they pretend the statue has been stolen so that they can make an insurance claim.
Between them, the Malkovich and MacDowell characters don't have a thimbleful of integrity. The only other American parts of any consequence belong to Peter (Local Hero) Riegert, MacDowell's colorless husband, and Lolita (Blaze) Davidovich, who casually sleeps with Malkovich even though she is MacDowell's best friend.
By contrast, Davies, as a deaf-mute hotel chambermaid, practically oozes nobility. When she ends up stealing the Moore sculpture, it's not for profit but because she appreciates its beauty. (Davies turns in a masterful performance as a wide-eyed innocent who is capable of fierce outbursts.)
Lindsay-Hogg treats MacDowell less like a poster and more like an actress than director Peter Weir did in Green Card. She handles the role of vapid hanger-on with some finesse. And the enterprising Malkovich, much less churlish and broody than he was in an essentially similar role in The Sheltering Sky, makes his unlikable character more pitiable than hateful.
The search for the lost sculpture and the troubled Malkovich-MacDowell romance are resolved at the same time, leaving the two Yanks to go off in further pursuit of their enduring obsessions: sex and money.
Well, okay, if that's the way you want it, Lord Lindsay-Hogg. Nobody can say your story doesn't hold the attention. Remember the Battle of Yorktown, though. (R)