Some times you need to put aside your misgivings about Nicole Kidman and forget whatever made her marry Tom and just let a Jane Campion film take you to paradise and back. Nearly two decades after it was made, I watched Portrait of a Lady for the first time with the younger boy and my parents. I avoid Kidman’s films generally unless there is something to hook me apart from the lead actress. But I am so glad I did.
From sumptuous period settings and gorgeous shot silk gowns with fishtails and bustles to a deliciously young Viggo Mortensen and a baby faced Christian Bale – the film is filled with eye candy. Add to that a typically British Richard E. Grant and Martin Donovan and an aging ingenue played by Barbara Hershey. But the icing on the entire taffeta and top hat concoction is the chemistry between Kidman and John Malkovich who plays the scoundrel that marries her naive American for the inheritance. The sparks fly so well that I am almost tempted to think there may have been some panky behind the lace – edged hankies on location. The settings are after all swoon worthy and Malkovich is known for dallying with his costars.
But perhaps I read too much into Kidman’s dazzling performance. Perhaps it is the effect of a great ensemble cast and a great director. Irrespective of behind the scene goings on, this is a brilliant film; well worth the nineteen year wait in my case.