THE PAINTED VEIL (2006)

TMG Scale 8.0
Starring Ed Norton, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Diana Rigg

This is a serious movie for serious film buffs. It is not a Friday night date film. It is anything but trivial or silly. It is deep, emotional and heavy. It is exceptionally well written, filmed and acted.  It is a solid piece of film quality. All said, I would not recommend it to friends who recently raved about Thor, Fast Five or X-Men.

The era is 1925. Walter Kane (Norton)  is a British medical medical scientist specializing in bacteria outbreaks. Kitty’s (Watts) wealthy family has given up on her getting married and her father subtly works to arrange opportunities for her to meet successful men. Kitty likes fun, dancing and romance.  Kitty’s marriage to Walter was not so much “arranged” but somewhat foisted upon her by her family. Walter is a  He is pretty much as dull as they come. He is a serious man. Both end up married more because it is something they are “supposed to do.”  Walter is into his science and work. He wants only to be fed, cared for and two minutes in the missionary position once a week.  They say opposites attract but here, opposites are just opposites and marriage was simply the order of the day.

Cholera breaks out in China and Walter is called upon to find its source and mitigate the outbreak. Most any marriage counselors today have a big poster in their office listing “A trip to a hot, primitive village in China in midst of cholera epidemic”  among the  “The Top 5 Causes for a Strain on a Marriage. Kitty is less a bad person than she is just bored and unstimulated.  [TMG warns when you have wife named “Kitty,” you better be careful.]  The marriage is not so much loveless as love lost needing to be found.

Kitty has an affair in China with an associate of Walter’s named Charlie Townsend (Schrieber). She thinks she loves him. He probably truly adores her. But Charlie is not going to leave his wife for Kitty. Walter finds out. It’s divorce or do as I say in a terrible marriage. This probably happened a lot in 1925 as many women felt trapped by family, societal pressures—not to mention being trapped in a remote Chinese village full of cholera. The story moves on as they both try to cope. Common ground is finally found in trying to care for others at an orphanage/infirmary run by a group of nuns.

Watch this story on a rainy summer afternoon. It’s a very worthy film. But don’t expect car crashes or lots of laughs.

NOTE: The convent is run by Mother Superior (Diana Rigg). Rigg was the black leather clad hottie, Emma Peel, from The Avengers TV series in the 1960’s. After the film, I sat thinking “Okay, now where was Diana Rigg in this film?…Oh….. the old nun.”  Time does move on.

 

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