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Friday, March 13, 2009

ESTHER KAHN (2000)

Add Arnaud Desplechin onto the list of French autuers who have come to grief working in English. An intriguing story about a poor, but quietly headstrong Jewess who opts out of her family’s tailoring business and lands on the London stage circa 1900 is partially refreshed by Desplechin’s concentration on the times, bohemian mores & physical details of living & working conditions, rather than the usual backstage trials & triumphs. Alas someone (nervous producers?) laid on excessive narration to draw our attention to details we ought to be noticing all on our own. And though the film is generally well cast, Summer Phoenix proves hopelessly over-parted as Esther. Oh, she’s handsome enough, especially in the nude, but a lack of push or energy, along with her flat line readings make a mockery of her speedy success, especially when she wins the title role in a daring production of HEDDA GABLER. Talk about lambs to the slaughter. Phoenix’s career all but evaporated after this.

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