2006 - United States - 125 minutes
Writer - Ron Nyswaner from the novel by W. Somerset Maugham
Director - John Curran
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 7.5/10 - Link to IMDB
My Rating - 4 of 5 Stars

I watched The Painted Veil on the evening of Mother's Day and thought, as I sat to write this piece, that this movie would have certainly appealed to my mother. In fact it would appeal to most mothers or anyone who enjoys a good old fashioned melodrama.

The story has been told and told again. A shallow woman marries a man to escape the clutches of her family. They travel to China circa 1925 where he conducts research on bacteria. She has no interest in his work and almost as little in him. He is, to say mildly, less than outgoing in his relations with his wife. She falls into an affair with the local lady's man and is given the choice of receiving a messy divorce or traveling with her husband to the Chinese outback where he is going to help stem an outbreak of cholera. The wife finds that her lover has feet of clay and will not leave his wife, so she regrettably accompanies her husband. Events occur in this remote region which change the lives of this unhappy couple. I told you it was melodrama!

Its good direction, professional acting, great production values, and incredible scenery that make this version of The Painted Veil so appealing.

Naomi Watts plays the wife. She does an admirable job at showing us a shallow young woman who matures into a person of value. In the 1934 film, Greta Garbo played the roll. I would have thought that someone such as Bette Davis would have done a good job at this part ala Jezebel.

The distant husband is played by Edward Norton who shows us a man whose emotions are slowly drawn from an inner self to develop into a full grown passion for both his work and his wife.

With just the right amount of sexuality, humor, and bad-boyishness, Liev Schreiber plays the lover.

Character actor Toby Jones who was so excellent as Truman Capote in Infamous plays the local government official who has long since succumbed to the exotic charms of China - no British superiority here.

Finally, those of us who lusted after Emmy Peel, get to see Diana Rigg as the Mother Superior of the local orphanage and clinic. Yes, she's old and wrinkled, but damn, she still looks good.

Take this tale of imperfect people who learn from their mistakes, add a backdrop of some of the most beautiful scenes of nature imaginable, and mix with talented acting and you get a great "guilty pleasure" movie for a Sunday evening.

Neil Turner
May 14, 2007

The Painted Veil