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Le divorce (2003)

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French vs. American social customs and behaviors are observed in a story about an American visiting her Frenchman-wed sister in Paris.

Director:

James Ivory

Writers:

Diane Johnson (novel), Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kate Hudson ... Isabel Walker
Jean-Marie Lhomme Jean-Marie Lhomme ... Immigration Officer
Naomi Watts ... Roxeanne de Persand
Esmée Buchet-Deàk Esmée Buchet-Deàk ... Gennie de Persand
Jean-Jacques Pivert Jean-Jacques Pivert ... Talkative Shopkeeper
Melvil Poupaud ... Charles-Henri de Persand
Catherine Samie ... Madame Florian
Samuel Labarthe ... Antoine de Persand
Leslie Caron ... Suzanne de Persand
Thierry Lhermitte ... Edgar Cosset
Nathalie Richard ... Charlotte de Persand
Samuel Gruen Samuel Gruen ... de Persand Child
Peter Wyckoff Peter Wyckoff ... de Persand Child
Sandrel Lonnoy Sandrel Lonnoy ... Maid
Glenn Close ... Olivia Pace
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Storyline

The differences in legalities and cultural mores of French and Americans regarding sex, love, marriage, religion and family bonds are presented through the interactions of two families related by marriage. American Isabel Walker heads to Paris to visit her half-sister, poet Roxeanne de Persand, who is early in the pregnancy of her second child. Isabel arrives to find that Roxy's French husband, Charles-Henri de Persand, has just left Roxy, the sisters both eventually further learning that it is because he has fallen in love with another woman, who is herself married. Roxy and Charles-Henri deal with their break-up, which Roxy does not want but must face the legal consequences of, including determining the ownership of what may be a valuable French painting that has been casually in the Walker family for years, but which Roxy has had in her possession since she got married. Meanwhile, Isabel begins to explore all that France has to offer, which includes concurrently embarking on sexual... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

american | french | love | sex | france | See All (179) »

Taglines:

A comedy of manners...both good and bad. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance | Comedy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

29 August 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Divorcio a la francesa See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$516,834, 10 August 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$9,074,550, 26 October 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Isabel is setting up chairs at the poetry reading and is confronted by Tellman, there are copies of "Le Divorce" by Diane Johnson on the bookshelf behind them. See more »

Goofs

When Isabel and Roxy are walking towards the la Flore to meet Roxy's husband, Isabel's scarf is hanging from her pocket. When they walk into la Flore she is wearing it around her neck. See more »

Quotes

[after seeing Isabel's new look at the airport]
Roger Walker: She looks like something out of "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!".
See more »

Connections

References Amélie (2001) See more »

Soundtracks

Quelqu'un m'a dit
Sung by Carla Bruni
Lyrics by Carla Bruni and Leos Carax
Music by Carla Bruni
(c) 2002 Free Demo
With the permission of Naïve
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User Reviews

 
Merchant Ivory come up lame.
13 February 2005 | by jbass99See all my reviews

Have not read the novel, but the movie itself is slush (not having read the novel I can't say whether to blame the author).

Supposedly, the story explores the values gulf between America and France, with sex the American taboo and money the French taboo. Sadly, the greatest taboo in this movie is common sense, which seems trapped at the midpoint between the two, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, several miles beneath the surface at the base of the mid-Atlantic rift.

Every time we think something that makes less sense couldn't happen, it does. Characters act stupidly or self-destructively, doing the kind of nasty or narcissistic things that would make them the villain of most any other putative comedy of manners, only to have their clueless behavior transcended (to the downside) in the very next scene.

The only real surprise in the film is that it was made by the same folks who gave us "A Room With A View" and its distinguished successors. Here, that body of work culminates in an anticlimactic thud, as if obscurity were the thing the production team had been seeking to perfect. (Thank goodness they have another film coming out soon.) Rather than engaging the audience, "Le Divorce" is so absurd that about halfway through, it joins the group of films that are so bad you watch to the end just to hoot at the screen.

Our antipathy to the characters is particularly amazing because there is not a bad performance. Most of the excellent cast is quite good, and I was very happy to see Leslie Caron looking so beautiful and healthy. One gets the feeling the actors chose the project because it was a Merchant Ivory film. The only betrayal we end up caring about is that their faith led them here.

The film looks great, yet the script makes us groan. Other than the sister in law and the young daughter of the divorce of the title, the characters are archetypes. The most distinctive personality belongs to a handbag, and the rest of them become so annoying they seem to deserve what they get. The genuine tragedies -- we see them coming two miles away, not just one -- don't carry much impact because these so clearly aren't real people.

"Le Divorce" was meant to be funny, but it plays out as a 90-minute Seinfeld stripped of comedy or plot. The only laughs come from the predictability and unbelievability of events, and the degree to which we don't care about anyone they happen to. Merchant Ivory have, and will, do a lot better than this.


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