James Ivory and cast make every scene flutter with feeling in this adaptation of Peter Cameron's 2002 novel, written for the screen by Ivory's collaborator-of-fifty-years, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Omar (Omar Metwally), an American PhD student, shows up unannounced at a secluded Uruguayan country estate to petition the household of novelist and suicide Jules Gund for permission to write the great man's biography, the completion of which would guarantee a professorship (a fate worse than death, it's implied). Omar must impress Gund's stranded 28-year-old mistress, Arden (Charlotte Gainsbourg), his shunned fortysomething wife, Caroline (Laura Linney) -- loathe to publicize their menage -- and his elder brother, Adam (Anthony Hopkins, with Hiroyuki Sanada his longtime companion). These are Merchant-Ivory cosmopolitans, people who quote Persian poets before dulcet landscapes. But even life among this aristocracy of the sensitive is not without complexities, with everyone trapped in their age-appropriate life-crises. Arden and Omar's flirtation is interrupted when his girlfriend (Alexandra Maria Lara) arrives; dashing, weak Omar, less self-willed than the average heroine of a 19th century marriage novel, hereafter recedes behind the women. Best is Linney, conquering scenes as the acrid and touching Caroline, her regal bitterness a shield against nostalgia, dressed Park Avenue posh to drink alone.
May 21-27, 2010