Riding high on having directed the Oscar-nominated Il Postino
(The Postman), Michael Radford followed with this character study
about a female jewel thief involved in a kinky menage-a-trois who
suddenly finds herself being courted by a Alan, jazz-loving schoolteacher.
Can Beatrice (a.k.a B Monkey--so named for a tattoo on her shoulder)
give up her exciting life and settled down to domesticity? That's
essentially the central conflict of this film based on Andrew Davies'
novel of the same name. That it took some three years to get into
the theaters is a story unto itself. What has arrived is a stylish but
uneven film, part romance, part crime drama, resulting in a
schizophrenic movie that one will either embrace or reject.
Radford is a fine director and he knows how to keep the story
moving but I was a bit confused by the goings-on. The title role
was tailored to Italian actress Asia Argento and she gives a strong
performance as the tough chick/femme fatale. With her luxuriant dark
hair, luscious lips and sexy moves, it is easy to understand why the
men in the film could fall for her, particularly Jared Harris' milquetoast
Alan. Where I got really confused was her actual relationships with her
partners, Paul, a louche aristocrat (a perfectly cast, if mumbling,
Rupert Everett) and the younger Bruno (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who
has done better work elsewhere). It seems that Paul and Bruno may
be lovers but then the impression is given that Bruno and Paul each
both love Beatrice as well. Perhaps it was deliberately left as
ambiguous, but I found it frustrating.
What does work, thanks in no small part to Harris and Argento
is the central story of their love affair. Onscreen chemistry is a rare
commodity but these two actors managed to achieve it. In fact,
Argento possessed great chemistry with Everett and Rhys Meyers
as well. She clearly relished the opportunity to inhabit this character's
skin and took full advantage of it. Harris has the tougher time as he
is, in effect, playing the passive feminine role. Alan is presented
as sensitive and caring, and highly unlikely to mix it up with the
likes of Everett and Rhys Meyers. When he is in their world, he is
the ultimate fish-out-of-water, but though he seems not to fully
understand the depth of B's ties to these men, he is willing
to tolerate them.
Radford stages several sequences well, particularly a jewel
heist that gets complicated. He also manages to maintain a consistent
tone and look to the film, abetted by director of photography Ashley Rowe,
whose work highlights the shifting moods via the use of light and
shadows and production designer Sophie Becher. B Monkey isn't
necessarily my kind of woman, but I can see her appeal, thanks
in no small part to Argento's stellar work. She manages to hold
the audiences interest even when the story flags. She a jewel thief
who herself is a sparkler.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.