Saturday, October 07, 2006
Truly Madly Wetly
What is it with Anthony Minghella and baths? Ralph and Kristin got steamy in The English Patient. Matt stirred a finger in Jude’s tub in The Talented Mr Ripley. And Breaking and Entering, Minghella’s new London-based romantic drama, from his first original screenplay since Truly Madly Deeply (1991), has two big bath scenes late in, the double whammy of which seems to me a faintly contrived way of gearing up for some naked truths. Law (the director’s continuing muse here, as an errant architect) first sloshes about with Juliette Binoche, who plays a Bosnian immigrant seamstress living with her light-fingered son (Romi Aboulafia) somewhere around the many building sites of King’s Cross. Robin Wright Penn pines away at home, usually through glass, as Law’s not-quite-wife, who’s half Swedish. The second bath is hers, and one of those where the character sits hunched forward looking pained and beautiful and presumably getting a bit cold. Minghella clearly likes his actors to bare their souls while they’re passing the soap, but neither scene wins the prize for best tub thesping in recent movies, which rightly belongs to Emily Watson’s hands, in close-up, in The Proposition.
The truth is, no one’s bad in Breaking and Entering — certainly not Renée-Zellweger-in-Cold-Mountain-bad, or Nicole-Kidman-in-Cold-Mountain-bad, or indeed anyone-in-Cold-Mountain-bad — and even when the film’s not quite working, which is often, it has some charming grace notes, many of them belonging to Martin Freeman as Law’s bemused business partner. But it’s a picture in which cleaning ladies cite Kafka and hookers donate Land Rovers as parting proof of their innate wisdom, which is to say I simply don’t buy very much of it, and the urban-regeneration-as-romantic-metaphor idea is straight out of the Stephen Poliakoff handbook for clever screenwriters itching to go location scouting. Minghella hoists his drama into place with an impressive panoply of cranes and scaffolding, but it’s left half-finished, really. Hard hats advised. C+