June 7th, 2012

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Edward Norton: The Painted Veil

I reluctantly dragged myself to the theater to see this one back when it was released. I didnt really know anything about it, but something just screamed "High school English class". My mind grouped it with Scarlet Letter and Wuthering Heights and other such works. I thought the movie was gonna be long and dragged out and boring. I never expected to be as enthralled and captivated as I was.

The short summary does sound kinda dull "A British medical doctor fights a cholera outbreak in a small Chinese village, while also being trapped at home in a loveless marriage to an unfaithful wife." But its incredibly gripping and far darker than I would have ever guessed. Edward Norton plays Dr Fane. He starts off as this adorable sap who is hopelessly in love with Naomi Watt's Kitty who just walks all over him. But then he proves that he actually does have some huevos when he essentially blackmails his wife into following him into that disease ridden village. That scene (starting at 3:40) made my jaw drop. And it just gets deeper from there, as he makes harder hitting passive agressive moves against his wife. You wouldnt think to find suspense in a movie like this, but the tension is just so high (just as during that dinner scene with the uncooked vegetables), it just knocks the wind outta you.

Looking at this phase of his career, Norton has certainly chosen some complex characters, and Dr Fane is no exception. As I'd just been saying, he starts off as a pushover, and then becomes rather cunning, and then, well we wont spoil it. It's just a phenomenal performance. After being robbed of Oscar glory for American History X, it seemed like Ed spent a good while chasing down another chance. This certainly could have been it (it was getting some longshot buzz) if only more people had seen this movie.

But of course, his performance would have been nothing without a strong leading lady. Naomi Watts has such fire and stubborn defiance as Kitty. She too goes thru just as much of a transformation, though her arc is different as get goes from spoiled brat to opressed prisoner to, well, where she finally ends up. The cast also boasts Liev Schriber (which is where he first met his now honey Naomi) and Toby Jones.

I love this score too. So hauntingly beautiful. Matches the tone of the film perfectly.